Sunday, March 30, 2014

Watermelon Cake

Thanks to Pinterest, I discovered Watermelon Cakes.  These whole food cakes are made out of nothing but fruit.  It's a great dessert to serve at a party.  Kids love it and don't even miss the processed sugar.

To make the cake take one large watermelon and cut the two ends off of it, cutting as much as is needed so that the middle piece you are left with is as cylindrical as possible.  (Sorry.  This was a messy process so I didn't take pictures until it was all done).

Then cut the rind off.

With just a lopsided cylinder of watermelon left, begin shaping it with a knife to make it as round as possible.  My watermelon ended up having a hole in it when I was done cutting so I had to go all Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable on it.  Don't worry.  I used extra watermelon, not paper towels to fix the hole.

The day before our party, I cut pineapples and melons with cookie cutters.  This was difficult, as the melons were tiny and the cookie cutters were big, so I ended up cutting some shapes out freehand with a knife instead.

I cut the flowers out of the centers of two halves of a melon and stuck them to the cake with two wooden skewers.  I used about ten toothpicks to stick the other fruits to the cake on its sides and then just covered the cake tray with extra pieces of fruit.

The cake was a hit and when it was finished we ended up juicing the extra watermelon for drinks and popsicles.
It was fun to make and fun to eat.  I will definitely be making watermelon cake again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Felt Ravan

Here is how to make the final character in my Ramayan series: Ravan.

1.) Cut out the following pieces:

Note: the piece of felt comprising the torso and ten heads is in duplicate.

2.) Using black thread doubled, sew two eyes onto the front of all ten faces, and red for the tikkas.
3.) Sew all ten mustaches to their faces.
4.) Sew all ten yellow crowns to their faces.
5.) Sew the two duplicate torso pieces together using a blanket or whip stitch.
6.) Fold the feet pieces in half and sew them together with a blanket or whip stitch.
7.) Fold the yellow pants together and sew it closed using a blanket or whip stitch.  You will need to attach the torso at the waist to the pants and attach the feet at the points at the bottom of the pants.
8.) Sew the yellow bands onto the neck to make necklaces.
9.) Use a running stitch to attach the red sash over Ravan's shoulder and you're all done!

And now the set is complete:

Lakshman, Ravan, Ram, Sita and Hanuman.

Previous Indian Felt Characters:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DIY Sugar Scrub

You can make your own non-toxic Sugar Scrub in minutes with just three simple ingredients.  Find a container to make and store the scrub in.  Then just add raw sugar, olive oil and the Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap in the scent of your choice in the following ratio:
  • 1/2 cup sugar in the raw
  • 1/2-2/3rds cup olive oil, depending on your preference.  The oil is going to get absorbed  into the sugar so it will not fill your container.
  •  1/3 cup Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap.

This makes an excellent, all natural exfoliating scrub that is perfect to give as a gift too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Non Toxic Toys: Blocks

Blocks these days sure are cuter than the ones I grew up playing with.  
Here are some of our family's favorites:

1.) Haba Baby's First Blocks.  This set of colored blocks is perfect for young children.  They are wooden blocks though so we were careful when our son first started walking because we didn't want him to fall on the sharp corners.

2.) Haba Fantasy Blocks are wonderful heirloom quality blocks with fun patterns and colors that can lead to endless formations.  Like all Haba blocks, they are non toxic and made in Germany.

3.) PlanToys Fairy Tale Blocks come with a mix of Planwood colored blocks and solid wood blocks, a king and queen, two tiny horses and a chariot.  PlanToys are made in Thailand out of environmentally friendly, non toxic wood and paints.  Some of their sets are even painted with paints dyed with minerals and plants.  These blocks are cute and can easily be integrated into the Haba sets.

Happy building and remember to check back here every Monday and Thursday for new posts!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: PlanetBox Rover Complete

Note: I received a complimentary product for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I kept hearing about "PlanetBox" from my friends.  Curious, I checked out their website and liked what I saw.  Here was a company dedicated to making zero-waste lunches through their various stainless steel bento boxes.  The smallest size is the Shuttle, the next size up, which is ideal for children and adults, is the Rover, and the largest size is the Launch.  So when my son was old enough to eat solids, I purchased two Shuttles for us and two Coldkits, (PlanetBox ice packs that can keep food cold for up to 8 hours, made with purified water instead of chemicals so if they ever puncture and leak, you don't have to worry about questionable chemicals spilling into the PlanetBox).  These cute little lunchboxes work great for taking a sandwich and snack on the go, and we took ours to the zoo weekly.

The Shuttle Complete sets were such big hits in our household, I was thrilled when I had an opportunity to review the Planetbox Rover Complete system.

The Rover Lunchbox

The Interior

Holding nearly 4.5 cups of food, the Rover Complete comes with the Rover lunchbox, a big dipper and little dipper with silicone seals to lock freshness in and prevent spills, and a Rover Carry Bag in a variety of bold colors made of recycled polyester. 
The Little and Big Dippers

Like all PlanetBoxes, they can be personalized with removable, pvc-free, toxin-free magnets, included in the Complete set or available for individual purchase.  These magnets are available in several designs and help the PlanetBox lunchboxes grow with your child.  You can change their magnets every school year if you'd like, or alternate them daily for a variety.

The Carry Bag has an interior black pocket that can fit the ColdKit.  The exterior of the Carry Bag has two pockets.  

The Big Dipper can fit into the square pocket and you can put the water bottle of your choice into the pocket on the left.  Pictured below is the 12oz Klean Kanteen in the bottle pocket.

Since the PlanetBox Rover (and all their systems) is made of stainless steel, it is durable and built to last for years.  Check out their warranty information here.  This is a great, zero-waste, long lasting alternative to plastic lunchboxes that get thrown out every year and thanks to the compartmentalized boxes, there is no need for wasteful plastic sandwich bags.

Another bonus to stainless steel construction is that the PlanetBox lunchboxes can often be repaired.  I once had a latch loosen on one of our Shuttle systems.  I just had to follow this video to get it back to normal.

The Rover Complete will fit into most backpacks.  Here are the Rover Complete's Specs:

Weight1.25 lbs for a Basic, 1.6 lbs for a Plus, 2.5 lbs for a Complete
Dimensions10 × 7.5 × 1.5 in for Basic or Plus, 12 × 9 × 2.5 in for a Complete
I had a great time trying out different meal combinations in the Rover.  The PlanetBox is designed to help people pack well-balanced meals with sensible portions that are in line with the USDA's MyPlate guidelines.  This makes it great for not just kids but adults too.  It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly complex, themed Bento Box websites out there but the great thing about PlanetBox is you can make these meals as complicated or as simple as you'd like, with our without a sandwich cutter, and they all look great.

Indian Food: Khichadi, Okra, Roti, Almonds and Tangerine Slices

Butterfly made of Apples and Tangerines, Apple Cubes, Green Beans and a Chutney Sandwich

We use the organic whole wheat bread from Trader Joe's.  It is a larger bread but it does fit in the Rover sandwich compartment, although I did have to push it in on one side when I used the whole slice.  It didn't damage the sandwich though.  Since the chutney sandwich pictured above was so thick with vegetables, I only packed half a sandwich.

Quinoa and Pickles Packed in the Dippers to Prevent Spills, Homemade Granola, Tomato Slices, a Date for Dessert and Apple Slices

Clean-up is easy.  The PlanetBox lunchboxes are dishwasher safe.  Just remember to remove the magnets first.  Here is a video on how to clean them.

PlanetBox now offers a great meal planning and idea sharing option on its website.  Check out Plan-It-Box and Share-A-Box here to help you come up with ideas for meals and share your ideas with the PlanetBox community.

I loved the Rover Complete so much I ended up purchasing a couple more for other family members too.

You can purchase the PlanetBox Rover Complete, and any of the other systems and individual accessories, (like Coldkits, spoons, forks, magnets and bags) at their website.

Planetboxes come on sale a couple times a year and you're in luck because one of those times is today!  Save $17 off a Rover Complete with the Green Bag in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  Just use the code GREEN17.  The offer expires 3/17/14.  And to make today even luckier, Planetbox has made some changes so that most domestic shipping rates have gone down as well!

Connect With PlanetBox
Do you have a PlanetBox?  What do you think about it?  Are you thinking about getting one?  Post your comments below and I will be sure to pass them along to PlanetBox.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: Klean Kanteen Food Canister

Note: I received a complimentary product for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.
Klean Kanteen is a fantastic, family-owned, eco-conscious company dedicated to providing zero-waste, sustainable food and beverage products.  A member of 1% For The Planet, they donate more than 1% of their sales to nonprofits that work to promote and protect the health of our planet.

I adore Klean Kanteen and have several of their bottles including the 12 oz, 18 oz and their insulated bottles. (See my earlier post on these products here).  So I was excited when I had the opportunity to review their new 8 oz. stainless steel food canister.

Made out of the same great non-toxic, responsibly made stainless steel as their other products, (so it doesn't retain or impart flavors), the canisters are available in two sizes: 8 oz and 16 oz, single-walled or insulated.  All canisters have a 100% stainless steel interior as well.

Klean Kanteen Canister housing pistachios
I found the 8 oz. canister to be the perfect size for packing a snack for my family, and the perfect size to fit in a diaper bag, backpack, purse or cloth lunch bag.  Check out the specs below:
  • Weight (w/lid): 5 ounces (142g)
  • Size (w/lid): 3.2" H x 3.07" W (81mm x 78mm)
  • Opening Diameter: 2.5" (63mm)

Food stayed fresh and undamaged even when on the go thanks to the silicone seal.

And the wide mouth made it roomy enough for a larger snack like a couple of peeled tangerines.  
The Canisters can even be used for storing food like dry fruit, spices, grains herbs and more.  They have an ID Badge on the lid that is marker and grease pencil friendly for easy labeling.  Cleaning the canister was an ease too.  With rounded corners, there was no place for crumbs to get stuck and unlike some other companies' stainless steel products, there was nothing sharp to get nicked on.  This also makes it a good option for kids' lunches.

BPA free, the canister is a nicely designed product that is easy on the eyes and easy on the planet, replacing single use containers and plastic food storage containers that eventually end up in a landfill.  As the proud owner of several Klean Kanteens, I can't wait to add more of these canisters to my collection.

Take the pledge: Go 30 days without single-use plastic, paper or other disposable items here.

Where to purchase:
In addition to Klean Kanteen's website, the Canister and other Klean Kanteen products can be found in stores like REI, or online at retailers like Amazon.

Connect with Klean Kanteen Here:

Check back here every Monday and Thursday for new posts!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Felt Hanuman

Here is how to make the fourth character in my felt Ramayan series: Hanuman.

1.) Cut out the following pieces:

Note: the torso, tail and pants are in duplicate.

2.) Using black thread doubled, sew two eyes and a mouth onto the front of the face, and red for the tikka.
3) Sew the two duplicate torso pieces together using a blanket or whip stitch.
4.) Fold the feet pieces in half and sew them together with a blanket or whip stitch.
5.) Sew the two tail pieces together.
6.) Sew the two gray pants together using a blanket or whip stitch.  You will need to attach the torso at the waist to the pants and attach the feet at the points at the bottom of the pants.
7.) Attach the tail to the back of the pants.
8.) Use a running stitch to attach the yellow crown pieces to the front and back of the head.  
9.) Then sew the pink ears and mouth onto the face. 
10.) Finally, sew the yellow sash over Hanuman's shoulder and you're all done!

RamLakshman, Sita and Hanuman are now done.  Check back for Ravan over the next couple weeks and the set will be complete!

Coming Thursday: a review of Klean Kanteen's new stainless steel food canisters. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Recipe: Quinoa Veggie Burgers

  • 1 c organic quinoa
  • 1/4 c chopped onion
  • 1 medium organic sweet potato
  • 3 tbpns organic chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup rbst-free, parmesan cheese with vegetarian rennet
  • 5oz rbst-free cheddar cheese
  • Avocado oil
  • Sea Salt and Garlic Powder to Taste

  • Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package.
  • Steam the sweet potato for 25 minutes until soft.
  • Sautee the onion in 1 tspn avocado oil
  • Shred the cheddar cheese
  • Soak the chia seeds in 9 tbspns of water
  • Add the onion, cheeses, sweet potato, onion, chia mixture, sea salt and garlic powder to the quinoa once it is cooked, making sure to mash the sweet potato into the quinoa.
  • Once cool enough, make the quinoa mix into patties by hand.  I made 13 3" X 2.5" patties

Add avocado oil to a cast iron skillet.  (I don't use non-stick cookware because of the toxic PFOAs).

Cook the patties on medium high until browned and then flip to brown the other side.

Then get your condiments ready.

I made veggie burgers on toasted Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Slims.

Here is one with goat cheese, onions, avocado, and tomato.

And here is another with onions, tomato, mustard, ketchup, and pickles.

This was an easy dinner made of healthy ingredients that the whole family enjoyed.  Hope you do too!

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review: U Konserve 33 oz Rectangular Container and 8 oz Medium Round Container

Note: I received complimentary products for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

I'm a big fan of using stainless steel instead of plastic or disposable tableware, so I was thrilled when I had an opportunity to try out a couple of products from U Konserve's line of zero-waste, non-leaching stainless steel containers.

U Konserve, (formerly known as Kids Konserve before expanding their line of zero-waste lunch products for all ages), was founded on the premise of helping the environment by reducing the amount of waste created with a line of eco-friendly, reusable products.  As an added bonus, all products are non-toxic and tested free of BPA, Phthalates, PVC and lead.

I got to try out their 33oz rectangular container with saffron lid and their 8oz round, medium container with a clear lid.

The 33 oz rectangular container is also available with a slate colored lid.  It is the perfect size for packing sandwiches, wraps, salads, takeout, etc. and can also be used to store the food in the refrigerator.  The stainless steel container is made from 304 (18/8) food grade stainless steel and weighs 8.25oz.  It measures 7.75" X 5" X 1.75" and is top-rack dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.  The lid is a #4, LDPE, non-toxic plastic. U Konserve also sells plastic dividers that can be placed inside the rectangular container to separate it into compartments.  The divider can be purchased separately here or as part of the rectangular container here (it is still removable).

The 8oz round container is great for yogurt, dips, fruits, salads, nuts, granola, applesauce, snacks and more, and can also be used to store food in the fridge.  It is made from 304 (18/8) food grade stainless steel and weighs 3.75 ounces.  Top-rack dishwasher safe, it measures 4" X 2" and its lid is made from #4, LDPE, non-toxic plastic.

In terms of aesthetics, these are smart-looking containers and the saffron lid really stood out as a unique color.  The clear lid for the round container is great for letting you see what is inside.  In terms of utility, the round container can be packed separately from the rectangular container or it can be placed inside.  Either way, both containers were very sturdy and didn't leak.  At 33oz and 8oz, they are also pretty roomy and the perfect size for an individual lunch or snacks for the family.  

On the first day, I packed a salad in the round container, and placed it inside the rectangular container, which housed a few of my organic quinoa pizza bites.  The container was carried inside a backpack for a couple hours before I was ready to use it, with no issues.

I loved that the stainless steel containers had rounded edges so there was nothing sharp for a child to get hurt on.  It made hand-washing a breeze too, since I was eager to use the containers again without running my dishwasher.

On the second day, I packed the two containers separate from each other in my bag.  Again, there was no issue with spillage and the food tasted great even after several hours in my bag.  There is absolutely no metallic taste, unlike some other stainless steel containers that I have tried.  And the container is roomy enough for the large organic bread we use.

It also was big enough for a homemade quinoa veggie burger, (I'll post the recipe on Thursday), on Trader Joe's whole wheat slims.

On the third day, I used the containers to serve my son his dinner at home, without the lids.  It was great for a change from our usual stainless steel plates and my son was absolutely thrilled to eat out of the new dishes.

Indian Food Served in U Konserve Containers At Home

These products worked great and withstood the test of several different formations and foods.  I highly recommend these products.  They are an affordable way to eliminate lunch waste and support a great, environmentally friendly company.  Check out their full line of zero-waste lunch products, including stainless steel containers, lunch kits, totes, lunch sacks, wraps, bags and napkins.

Where to Buy U Konserve and Kids Konserve Products:

In addition to their website, these wonderful, zero-waste products can be found at online retailers like Amazon and Zulily and in stores like Whole Foods and many other markets, children's stores, home stores, etc.  To find a store near you, click here.

Connect with U Konserve here: