Little Leprechauns

We had lots of excitement over St. Patrick’s Day.  First my daughter’s kindergarten class made leprechaun traps to try to trap leprechauns and get their gold.  These are usually sweet, glittery boxes with rainbows and stars.  However there were a few that seemed a bit unkind – spikes and water to keep the poor green guy in the box.  Luckily the leprechaun’s stole the marshmallows (apparently what they eat) and just left a bit of mess (think toys on the ground, glitter dust and bead necklaces left behind).

My son also got his braces on last week.  Because the next day was spirit day and the day before St. Patrick’s Day he chose to get green bands on the braces.

Not to be outdone by her brother’s new green smile, my daughter put together her own green.  She was easy to spot and made up for any other students lacking green spirit.

 

This year St. Patrick’s Day was on a weekend so I had some time to make green shamrock pancakes (added food dye), green eggs (added pesto), cut kiwi  and green juice (mix of fruits and spinach in belnder).  I must say the kids loved it.  It wasn’t very appetizing looking.  But every once in a while it’s fun to hear a squeal at the breakfast table with a bit of surprise and “magic”.

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Green My Lunch Box

I want to share a wonderful campaign to raise awareness of using green food packaging products sponsored and supported by many of my favorite local companies, such as Fabkins, KidsKonserve, Wrap-n-Mat and EarthLust.
If 15,000 people join the campaign & pledge to pack a waste-free lunch, we can eliminate 1 million lbs of waste!

Simply log on to Facebook and join the campaign! Enter to WIN A WASTE-FREE LUNCH PRODUCT: Share with others how you’re greening your life to enter to win. One winner every day!

Save 10% off all orders from Green My Lunch Box participating company websites when using the coupon code “Greenit” when checking out.  Click here to learn more and start shopping.

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Spring Peas Please

I love peas.  Really, any peas….snap, spring, petit, snow.  There’s something about the shape and color that is very happy and reminds me of hot days as a kid.  Spring, also known as English peas have a pretty short season.  English peas are unlike snap peas in that you don’t eat the pod, just the sweet peas inside.  My kids love popping them open, then unzipping them to see how big and how many they got.  Actually when choosing spring peas, you want to stay away from those that are too fat and bulging as they’re full of starch and not as sweet as the smaller pods.

At the beginning of spring pea season I hit the farmer’s market and bought about 8 pounds from Iocopa Farms.  (Unfortunately we weren’t very lucky growing our own peas this year.  The vines are growing, but no peas.)  My kids and I shelled for days.  They really got into it.  My daughter eating them faster than we can shell them.  Really you should shell them quickly after buying and cook or eat them within a few days.  If cooking the English peas, figure that 1 pound will yield 1 cup of shelled peas.   

Besides eating them raw we also made pea puree, spring pea soup, orzo with peas and mint, and curry, herb peas.  The good thing about peas is you can buy them organic and frozen all year long.  This certainly cuts down the time to make a pea dish if you don’t have the time or the willing mini sous chefs to shell with you.  It also allows you to enjoy them year round – in or out of season.  We were able to grow the fresh cilantro and mint that I think pair so well with peas.

Here’s a few pea recipes if you’re heading to the farmer’s market or picking in your own garden now.  Or keep these recipes for the Fall, when you hit the frozen aisle and need a reminder of spring.  Oddly enough some kids like icey, frozen vegetables.  My son loved a bowl of frozen peas right out of the freezer when he was 3 and 4 years old.  I sometimes suggest frozen veggies to parents who say their kids won’t eat veggies.  Try them raw, cooked, and even frozen.  You never know…

Sweet Pea Puree (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Give peas a chance!   Many children’s first foray into green vegetables is peas, because of their sweet flavor.  Just be careful not to overcook.  They should be bright green, not drab and gray, like the jarred version.

 1 package (10 ounces) frozen organic peas, or 10 ounces shelled fresh peas

 Steamer Method:

Place frozen or fresh peas in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1to 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until peas and tender and bright green.  Rinse peas in cold water to stop cooking.  Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Curry & Herb Peas (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

 The cumin and curry makes this dish an aromatic, but not spicy for those just trying spices.  These peas make a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meats for all ages.   

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup water

16 ounces fresh or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen, organic peas, thawed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

 Heat butter in large saucepan over moderate heat.  When foam subsides, add garlic to pan and quickly sauté until light brown.  Stir in curry, cumin, water and peas and simmer until peas are tender and heated throughout, approximately 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, if desired.

 Mind your peas!  They will cook quickly.  If they are overcooked, they can become mushy, and lose their bright color and sweet flavor.

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Getting Greener or Getting Fooled – Label Deception

From Lisa Barnes

Advertisers and marketers are having a field day with the going green trend and making millions on labels for everything from cheese puffs, to laundry soap, to toys. Everyone wants to buy “greener” products and we simply look for a quick “seal” or buzz words – but what do they mean? Is it eco-friendly, or sustainable, or recyclable, or animal-friendly, biodegradable or “other”?

I recently taught a baby food cooking class to new parents who were just starting to feed their children solids. They of course are very concerned about what goes in and around their babies – as they should be. I showed them how not only to read labels but decipher them and be careful about products marketed for babies and children. Brands our parents and grandfathers trusted aren’t necessarily helping the confusion.

We discovered baby teething biscuits with partially hydrogenated oils. Turkey labeled as “natural” (however it’s legal for “natural” turkey to have been raised on a diet that included hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified corn). Typical “junk foods” (cheese puffs, potato chips) labeled as “organic” (but still no healthier due to trans fats and additives and preservatives). And the biggest shock to the class was baby food packaged in #7 plastic (thought to leach chemicals in foods) – with microwave directions!

This past weekend was a helpful article in the San Francisco Chronicle about green products seals, and claims surrounding green products. We’re still so new at determining and establishing some product standards that some companies are just making them up themselves. Do we want to trust Johnson and Johnson’s “green” label conducted by an in-house team? We need to educate ourselves so we’re not caught up in the marketing tactics of large companies who just want to sell us products (healthy or not, truly “green” or not). Those of us trying to go “greener” need help as well as some time and patience to read between the lines. I found the article to be helpful which you can read here.

As far as food goes, it’s just one more reason to avoid reading labels and shop for whole organic foods at the Farmer’s Market. I know we can’t always go there and they don’t have everything, but it sure makes shopping, cooking and eating easier (and healthier). The good news is that there is a federal standard for “organic” food. However staying away from processed foods cuts down on much of the label deciphering, but if you must do it keep these things in mind for “organic” food claims.

Those small stickers with the numbers on the fruit mean something too. Did you know?…

*A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown (not organic).

*A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

*A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified (GM).

According to the Center for Food Safety, GM foods have been in stores only since the 1990s, so we don’t know the long-term health risks, and in a 1998 EPA sampling, 29% of the foods tested contained detectable pesticides.

Here’s a reminder of the organic labels on multiple ingredient foods:

Labels and definitions are as follows

“100 percent organic” All ingredients are organic.

“Organic” At least 95 percent of ingredients are organic.

“Made with organic ingredients” At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. If less than 70% of the ingredients are organic, the word “organic” can be mentioned on the information panel, but not on the front of the package.

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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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