Eco-Friendly Crafts for Kids

For those of you who love doing crafty things with your kids, or for those, like me, who need a little help being creative, I found the coolest site – Green Kid Crafts ! You can purchase Eco-friendly craft kits or get a monthly subscription to receive 3-4 kits per month. I know my kids and I have been going stir-crazy this winter and something like this would have been really useful. I am definitely going to try this out, so look forward to our review in the near future…

 

greenkids

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Chickpea Salad Sandwich

 

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This delicious recipe for mashed chickpea salad came from The Simple Veganista.

Ingredients:
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and mashed with a fork or potato masher
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/4  cup scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup or so hummus or tahini (any vegan mayo works too)*
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons mustard (stoneground or dijon)
  • sea salt & cracked pepper, to taste
  • dash of garlic powder
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • small handful pepitos (pumpkin seeds), optional
  • paprika/smoked paprika, garnish

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, scoop onto your favorite bread, and enjoy! (This would taste equally good atop a bed of lettuce!)

 

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Sophie’s Winter Lip Balm

I am a lip balm addict! I have gone through more Burt’s Bees than anyone on the planet. The only problem with my Burt’s Bees is that I have a hard time digesting the fact that one small tube is almost $3.00 in some places. So, I moved on to buying the lip balm from my favorite soap company, Wash Your Mouth Out Soap Company.

While collecting all of my supplies for holiday soap making, I noticed some inexpensive cosmetic-making supplies. So I figured, why not try to make my own and see what happens? At the least, it would be something I could do with my daughter and they would make great Christmas gift add-ons, right?

For $0.12 a tube, I purchased 20 lip balm tubes and a 1lb bag of white beeswax pastilles for under $9.00. You only use a tablespoon or two for a recipe for 20 tubes, so that 1lb bag will last me forever! I also purchases a 0.5oz bottle of peppermint essential oil , some plastic pipettes, a bottle of sweet almond oil, and some labels to gussy up the tubes. I already had some vitamin E supplements in my cabinet, so a quick trip to the store to buy a jar of coconut oil and cocoa butter and I was ready to go!

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The initial investment (about $40.00) seems a little steep, but I figure that for a long while the only purchase I will have to make will be for more tubes, pipettes, and labels (if they are for gifts). By my estimation, each tube of homemade lip balm costs me less than a dollar, AND I get to have a fun time with my daughter!

So, here was my process:

Place 2Tbs of sweet almond oil, 1Tbs of coconut oil, and 1Tbs plus 1tsp of beeswax (if you like a firmer balm, you can add up to double the beeswax), and 1Tbs of cocoa butter over low heat in a double boiler or you can use my method of hanging a glass measuring cup over the edge of a large pot filled with water.

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You want a slow melt, so this may take about 20 minutes or so.

Situate your tubes so you can be ready to pour.

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When the mixture is melted and appears homogenous, add 15-20 drops of peppermint essential oil and the contents of 3-4 vitamin E capsules. Stir and use the pipette to fill each tube.

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Let dry, cap, label, and enjoy!

 

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My Favorite Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

The best part about this cleaner (other than the fact that it cleans just as well, if not better, than its store-bought counterparts) is that I can whip up a batch in literally seconds. Oh, and it costs under 30 cents per bottle once you have all 3 of the ingredients already on hand! I use this cleaner on my kitchen and bath counters, my ceramic cook top, and porcelain sink bowls.

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Here’s the “recipe:”

  • 1/2 Cup Isopropyl Alcohol
  • 5-6 Drops Natural Dish Liquid (I use Seventh Generation, but you could also use Castille Soap)
  • 10 Drops Essential Oil (I like to use Tea Tree Oil in my kitchen batch due to its antibacterial properties and I use Lavender in the bathroom batch.)
  • Water

Just mix the alcohol, dish soap, and essential oil in a spray bottle and top to 32oz with warm water. It’s that easy! I find that it leaves my granite countertops super shiny and squeaky clean to the touch. Another major benefit is that it won’t leave you gasping for air while you inhale potentially toxic chemicals often used in conventional store-bought brands. You’ll find that the light scent of the rubbing alcohol mixed with whichever essential oil you use provides a clean, pleasing smell.  Enjoy!

 

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Homemade Soaps

Who knew that soap making is so much fun!  We did not attempt the cold-process method (yet) out of fear of working with lye but instead opted for the melt and pour method. So far, we have tried goats milk, olive oil, and shea butter and experimented with various recipes and scents such as dried lavender, oatmeal and honey, apple cinnamon, orange blossom and lemon zest, and red rose and thyme.  As soon as we receive our supplies, we are going to try our hands at a shampoo and shaving bar, body lotion, and lip balm too!

If you would like to try your hand at making soap at home and you are trying to be conscious of ingredients, I highly recommend finding a natural, vegetable-based melt and pour such as these:

http://www.brambleberry.com/MP-bases-C217.aspx

http://www.bulkapothecary.com/soap-making/melt-and-pour-soap-bases/goat-milk-sfic-all-natural-glycerin-melt-and-pour-soap-base/

http://www.bulkapothecary.com/soap-making/melt-and-pour-soap-bases/castile-sfic-all-natural-glycerin-melt-and-pour-soap-base/

http://www.bulkapothecary.com/soap-making/melt-and-pour-soap-bases/olive-oil-sfic-all-natural-glycerin-melt-and-pour-soap-base/

 

Here is a photo of the Goats Milk Oatmeal Honey, Olive Oil Orange Blossom and Lemon Zest, and Lavender.

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Each of the following recipes is for One 4oz bar of soap.

Goats Milk Oatmeal and Honey Soap:  This soap is great for winter skin, as it exfoliates, moisturizes, and nourishes.

  • Place 4 oz of melt and pour goats milk soap in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and heat in 30 second increments until the soap is melted. (Most of the soaps come in either one big segmented block which is very easy to cut or in pre-cut 1oz cubes.)
  • Add 1/4 tsp of vitamin E oil (I used the contents of 4 gel caps)
  • Place 1/8 cup of rolled or steel-cut oats in a blender until finely chopped then add to the melt
  • Add 1 tsp honey
  • If you would like to add fragrance, add up to 5 drops of honey almond fragrance oil or 1 tsp sweet almond oil
  • Pour into the mold of your choice and allow to completely dry before removing

 

Lavender Olive Oil Soap: This soap has a beautiful fragrance that will calm and refresh.

  • Place 4 oz of melt and pour olive oil soap in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and heat in 30 second increments until the soap is melted. (Most of the soaps come in either one big segmented block which is very easy to cut or in pre-cut 1oz cubes.)
  • Add about 2 Tbs of dried lavender to the melt ( recommend chopping it in a food processor or high-speed blender, because large pieces will scratch!)
  • Add 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil, depending on how strong you like the fragrance
  • Pour into the mold of your choice and allow to completely dry before removing

Olive Oil Orange Blossom and Lemon Zest: This citrus-y soap is invigorating and refreshing. Great for a morning shower!

  • Place 4 oz of melt and pour olive oil soap in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and heat in 30 second increments until the soap is melted. (Most of the soaps come in either one big segmented block which is very easy to cut or in pre-cut 1oz cubes.)
  • Add 2 tsp of dried orange blossom
  • Add 1tsp of lemon zest
  • Add a few drops of lemon essential oil, if you like a strong lemon fragrance
  • Pour into the mold of your choice and allow to completely dry before removing

 

Other great resources for finding essential oils, bases, supplies, dried herbs, fragrances, and colors are:

Bulk Apothecary

Bramble Berry Soap Making Supplies

San Francisco Herb Company

New Directions Aromatics

 

 

 

 

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Curative Cleaning

In my attempt to eliminate chemicals and toxins from my family’s diet, I have also realized the importance of minimizing or eliminating harsh, and often dangerous, ingredients from my cleaning cabinet. I highly recommend visiting the Environmental Working Group’s website to read about the products (and their ingredients) you are currently using and how they rate as far as safety for your family. I’ll admit that in addition to safety, I was also in search of a cheaper way to clean. Nowadays, there is a cleaning product for everything: floors, bathrooms, tile, granite, stainless steel, ceramic cook tops, glass, etc, etc, etc. This adds up to a lot of time, money, and space under your kitchen cabinet!  Oh, and this is not to mention all of the harsh and often toxic chemicals in those products. Here are the items that I am now using to clean just about anything:

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For under $35.00, I have all of the cleaning ingredients I will need for cleaning just about anything in my house for a long, long time. The only thing that is missing from my arsenal is washing soda, which is used to make, among other things, laundry detergent. I’ll admit that I have so much conventional detergent in my laundry room (due to an unbelievable sale at my local grocery store two years ago) that will probably last me at least another year. After that runs out, I definitely plan on making my own!

I would like to point out that the biggest expense for me was the essential oils (about $20.00). I like to add them to the cleaners for their beautiful aromas as well as their antibacterial properties. If you don’t mind the smell of vinegar or rubbing alcohol, you could purchase all of the ingredients for under $15.00.  I also recommend having several microfiber cloths for counter tops, appliances, and furniture. For the baking soda powder, I recycle old grated cheese containers and for the other cleaners, I am using recycled Windex and kitchen cleaner bottles.  If you do this, please make sure to thoroughly soak and clean out the bottles or you may have a little chemical reaction when you add your ingredients!

Here is a list of some individual cleaning “recipes” that I have tried and found to be as, if not more, effective as their store-bought counterparts:

 

Granite Cleaner

It is very important to note that you do not want to use vinegar on granite or other stone counter tops. Vinegar is acidic and can create microfissures in your natural stones which can collect bacteria and eventually cause damage.

  • 1/2 cup Isopropyl Alcohol
  • 6 drops of natural dish soap (I prefer either Castille Soap or Seventh Generation)
  • warm water topped of to 32 ounces
  • 10 drops of essential oil of your choice (I am currently using tea tree oil for its antiseptic properties, but  thyme, lavender, or lemon would do the same)

Dusting Spray

  • 1 Tbsp natural dish soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

  • Spray bowl with vinegar
  • sprinkle baking soda all around and in the water
  • let sit for several minutes
  • scrub with a toilet brush and flush

Bathroom Tub and Tile

    Basic Cleaner

  • put some baking soda in a dish
  • add enough natural dish soap to make a paste
  • scrub the tile with a rag or sponge and rinse

    Mold and Mildew

  • Take 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts water
  • spray on grout
  • rinse

All Purpose Cleaner

  • 1/4 cup of vinegar
  • 1/8 cup of baking soda
  • a few drops of essential oil of your choice
  • top of with water to 32 ounces

Stainless Steel Cleaner

  • spray appliance with a water and vinegar mixture
  • wipe down with a microfiber cloth to remove any spots or caked-on debris
  • take a new cloth and pour a dollop of olive oil onto it
  • rub the oil along the grain and buff dry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vegetarian Chili

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Try this meatless version the next time you are in the mood for chili and you may be surprised at how hearty and tasty it is. Oh, and it’s loaded with protein, fiber, and vitamins AND almost completely fat free!  Of course, I must give credit to my friends over at Forks Over Knives for the inspiration to make this dish. To get your vegan inspiration, please check out this amazing cookbook: Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook!

Ingredients (about 6 servings):

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (You can use any color. I used one green and one red.)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (if you prefer your chili a little on the spicy side)
  • 2 cups lentils ( I use an even mixture of red and green)
  • 1 box crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked red kidney beans
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute the chopped vegetables and garlic in 1 cup of the vegetable broth until soft. Add the seasonings and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add the lentils, beans, and tomatoes, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste and the lime zest and juice.

If you would like to keep this dish vegan, you can top with chopped green  and red onions, guacamole, and maybe even some shredded “cheese.” I recommend the Daiya brand as it melts very nicely.

Otherwise, top with your favorite chili toppings and enjoy!

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End-of-Summer Marinara Sauce

All of the hot weather we had  up until this week in the mid-Atlantic has given our Summer gardens a few extra weeks to flourish. A friend and I did a little picking yesterday and this was our incredible harvest! (Minus the apples, which will became an apple crisp )

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What else could we possibly do but make up a couple of batches of sauce?

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This is a VERY simple marinara, using about 18 fresh tomatoes, a chopped onion, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, a bay leaf, a handful of chopped fresh parsley, and sea salt to taste. The trick is to let it simmer for hours and hours and to saute the garlic and onion for several minuted before adding the remaining ingredients. We decided that we wanted a less “chunky” sauce, so we put the peeled tomatoes in a blender to puree before cooking. Incredibly yummy!

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Leeks in Olive Oil (Pirasa)

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This traditional Turkish dish from the Black Sea region is a beautiful side dish or main course. My husband informs me that it is usually served cold, topped with lemon juice, and he loves it served with breaded and fried mackerel or grilled chicken. Pirasa can also be served hot and is good in all seasons.

Ingredients:

  • 3 leeks, cut in 1/3 inch rounds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped in rounds
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup unfiltered olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp agave nectar (in place of sugar)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pot and saute onions until they turn clear. Add carrots and saute for a few minutes. Add leeks and stir for a couple more minutes. Add water, agave, salt and pepper. When the water boils add rice and lemon juice, cover, and simmer until the rice is cooked.
Pırasa is best when it’s served cold with a little lemon juice on top. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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What a great way to celebration the arrival of Autumn, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies! This recipe is gluten-free and almost completely refined-sugar-free (only in the semi-sweet chocolate chips, so you could substitute carob chips or unsweetened dark chocolate chips if you wish).

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/2 Cup Agave Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Oil (whichever oil you prefer, preferably Coconut Oil)
  • 1/4 Cup Apple Sauce (see my recipe for Homemade Apple Sauce)
  • 1/4 Milk (you can use cow milk or any milk substitute, such as almond or coconut milk)
  • 1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips (you may use any type you wish. I used semi-sweet dark.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In one bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In another bowl, mix the pumpkin, vanilla, agave, oil, apple sauce, and milk. Slowly mix the wet mixture in with the dry mixture with a pastry mixer until well blended. Add the chocolate chips and mix. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a soup spoon to scoop the dough and place on the parchment paper. You should be able to get about 20-25 cookies if you use a soup spoon to size and form the cookies. Bake for about 13 minutes. Enjoy!

 

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