Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DIY Toys: Mouse Upcycled from Sweatpants

I made three stuffed animals for my kids out of an old pair of sweatpants that were too damaged to donate.
First I drew my mouse on the sweatpants with a Sharpie Stained Fabric Pen.

Then I cut the above shape out for the mouse's torso and up, cutting 1/4th of an inch around the drawing.  
I cut the pants out of an old pair of cotton pajamas.
I cut both shapes out in duplicate.  This is easily done because the sweatpants and pajama pants have two layers.
With the pants and body inside out, I sewed along the border, about 1/4th of an inch in.  I left the top of the pants open for stuffing and the bottom of the torso for stuffing and to attach the pants.

I turned the mouse back so he was no longer inside out and turned the pants the right way too.

I stuffed both with leftover cotton scraps.

I then attached the pants to the bottom of the mouse and sewed it shut with a blanket stitch.

I then cut out a shirt and bottom and a heart from Eco-Fi felt from JoAnn Fabrics and sewed them to the front with a blanket stitch.  I cut a light blue piece of felt out for the eye, a black piece for the nose and white for the teeth and sewed them on with a blanket stitch.  Then I drew a dot on the blue eye.

And with that, the mouse, named "Apple" by my oldest kid, was complete.

Here is the rest of the gang that I will be posting about in the upcoming weeks:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

BPA Free, Can Free, Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Bean, Quinoa and Cheese Stove-top Enchiladas served with bell peppers, arugula, salsa and olives.
I make enchilada sauce from scratch to avoid using canned sauces, since almost all cans are lined with BPA and because we are vegetarian and meat is often hidden in the ingredients' listing under the label of "flavors," "natural flavors" or "artificial flavors" since meat isn't a common allergen.

The last time I made enchiladas, I had severe morning sickness so I haven't had the desire to even look at them in a couple years.  But last week I suddenly started craving them.  Unfortunately, because of the 2 year gap, I had lost my original recipe and couldn't remember exactly how I used to make the sauce.  This version turned out well but it doesn't taste quite as good as I remember the original tasting.

I started by washing and soaking the beans for the inside of the enchiladas the night before.

Soaking beans and lentils is an easy way to avoid canned food and is a typical part of cooking Indian food.  By morning, the beans double in size, and are soft enough to cook.  If you have a pressure cooker you can cook them in a few minutes or you can just cook them in a regular pot and it will take longer.  I always add asafetida or black pepper to the beans when they cook to help make the beans easier to digest.

To make the sauce, wash and soak three dried Pasilla Ancho peppers.  In about an hour they will become soft again.


While the pepper soaks, make the vegetable broth.

  • 3 organic celerey stalks
  • A handful of organic parsley (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 c onion
  • 4 c water
  • Sea Salt to taste

Boil it all together for half an hour.
Once the broth cools, blend it briefly.  I used my Nutribullet and just blended it for a few seconds.

  • The vegetable broth above
  • 6 large organic Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup organic cilantro
  • 3 Pasillo Ancho peppers
  • 2 tbsp Flax powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste or freshly squeezed lime juice (Add this after tasting your sauce to see if it needs more tartness.  The amount needed will depend on the taste of the tomatoes and peppers).

Pressure cook the tomatoes according to your pressure cooker's timings.  On mine it would normally take 7 minutes once the pressure started but because I had kidney beans in another container in the pressure cooker and am nursing, I wanted to make sure the beans were really well done to not give the baby any gas issues later.  So I let the pressure cooker cook everything for 20 minutes once the pressure started.

Once the tomatoes are cooked and cooled, blend them with the cilantro, peppers, flax powder and cumin.

The dark color pictured above comes from the peppers.  

In a large pot, mix the vegetable broth and the blended tomato paste.  Cook it on medium for ten minutes.  Then add tamarind paste or freshly squeezed lime juice if it needs to be a little tarter.

And with that, the sauce is done.  

I just made quick enchiladas on the stove top.  In a pan, I put a couple drops of avocado oil and placed my Trader Joe's Chia Seed Tortillas down.  I put the cooked beans and some leftover quinoa in the tortillas and shredded some rbst-free cheese.

I poured some enchilada sauce inside and wrapped the tortillas closed.

Then I poured some sauce on top and added a little cheese and cooked it on medium low for a couple minutes.

I drizzled some on the plates they were being served on and then placed the enchiladas right on top of them.  You couldn't even tell that they weren't cooked in the oven.

Enchiladas served with olives and salsa.

Follow me on Twitter @soups25

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

DIY Toys: Alligator Upcycled From A Sweater

After seeing how much fun my son had pretending our sofa was a boat and the carpet, the water, I decided to upcycle an old cotton turtleneck of mine into an alligator toy.  Sorry about the quality of some of the pictures.  They were taken at night in low lighting.

Cut the following pattern out from the sweater, inside out.  Be sure to leave an allowance of fabric around your pattern for sewing.  (The sleeve is the tail).

You end up with this shape.

Next cut open the seam at the bottom of the pattern where the alligator's head is, so that the jaws can open.  In the image above, the seam is on the bottom of the head, where the label is.  (Not the label on the right side of the picture on the foot).

So you're left with a mouth that can open like this:

Then put the head over a doubled piece of fabric to make the inside of the mouth.  I used an old, torn pair of sweatpants.  Because they are pants, the fabric is already doubled.  Cut out the inner mouth shape to match the shape of the head.

Then fold in the sides of the head on the top and bottom, about 1/4th of an inch and hem it.  You can hand sew or use a sewing machine.  Just make sure no rough edges are on the outer edges anymore.

Fold in the edges of the inner mouth and sew them so the edges have a smooth finish like this:

Using a blanket stitch by hand, sew the inner mouth to the head.  It will end up looking like this:

Here is a side view:

Then stuff the alligator from the sleeve, which will be the tail.  I just filled it with old cotton fabric scraps and torn socks.  This makes it easy to wash too.

When the alligator is stuffed, pinch the sleeve to form a triangle for the tail and sew it closed.

Cut out some eyes and sew them on.  Use fabric marker to draw nostrils and any other details and you're done!

Here is our toothless alligator swimming on a blue comforter, (which looks gray in this picture), with a felt fish and the octopus I had posted about earlier. 

Here is a close up.

He's not eating that fish.  He is giving him a ride across the Everglades.

And here he is being fed some playfood pizza.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts on Wading Through Soup.  Coming up in the next few weeks: a recipe for a BPA-free (can-free) enchilada sauce and more DIY toys.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

U-Konserve Food Kozies and Earth Day Barnraiser

Every day more than 20 million million single-use plastic sandwich bags get thrown into landfills in America.  Every day.  That figure is horrifying.

What can be done to decrease this number?  I've blogged about several stainless steel lunch options but they aren't for everyone.  I've had friends tell me their kids lose things at school all the time so they don't want to invest in stainless steel.  Others don't like the look or feel of it and prefer plastic.

Well, thanks to U-Konserve, there is a solution: Food Kozies.  The U-Konserve Food Kozy allows people who prefer plastic bags for sandwiches and snacks to use them without throwing them away.  You can see a quick 30-second video on their sandwich bag revolution here.

(Note: I received complimentary products for this post but the opinions are mine).

The Kozies are made from LDPE #4 plastic and nothing else.  There is no scary waterproof material to worry about, so no PFOAs.  And they are free of BPA, Phthalates, PVC and lead.  Hooray!

You can find the Kozies at U Konserve's Kozy Store or at other online retailers such as Amazon.   (And right now they are on sale at Zulily!  I just bought some more 33 oz containers and Kozies to give as gifts).  The Food Kozies come in 2-packs in 2 sizes (15.5" and 13.5"), in a variety of colors, and are a great alternative to single-use plastic bags for sandwiches, leftovers and snacks.  And when you unwrap the Kozy, it can even serve as a place mat.

I was excited to try mine out.  We use Trader Joe's Organic Wheat Bread.  The slices are larger than your average loaf of sandwich bread's but I had no problem wrapping my sandwich in a Kozy since the strips of velcro are long enough to make room for bigger slices of bread.

And hours later, when it was time to eat, the sandwich tasted fresh and as well-preserved as it would have been had it been in a single-use sandwich bag.  When I was all done, I rinsed the Kozy out and let it dry in my dish rack.  It was as easy as that to put an end to single-use sandwich bags.

The Food Kozy now also comes in an easy-to-carry snack bag too, (6 X 6.5") that I cannot wait to try out.

I was really impressed with my Food Kozy and with U-Konserve for yet another awesome, environmentally friendly product.

If you feel strongly about eliminating your usage of single-use sandwich bags, foil or wraps, check out U-Konserve's Earth Day Barnraiser.  To honor Earth Day, U Konserve wants to come out with a Butterfly-themed Kozy, to represent the fragility of our ecosystem.  The designs are complete.  They just need help raising $6,000 or their stretch goal of $12,000 for their Tiger design (also representing the fragility of our ecosystem).

Some examples of the pledge amounts are as follows:

  • No gift if you just want to help.
  • $5+ gets you one special edition Earth Day is Every Day Food Kozy
  • $10+ 2 special edition Earth Day is Every Day Food Kozies
  • $20+ 4 special edition Earth Day is Every Day Food Kozies
  • $35+ 4 special edition Earth Day is Every Day Food Kozies, 2 8oz leak-proof stainless steel containers with green lids.
See all pledge amounts and their gifts here.  Some options even give you 30 food Kozies for your child's entire class!  What a great class gift and earth-friendly message to give.

Connect with U Konserve here:

For More Info on The Above Mentioned Toxins, Here Are My Previous Posts On: 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Plastic Toys

I've been asked by several readers if I have any plastic toys, since I only blog about homemade toys and wooden toys.

I don't think there is anything wrong with plastic toys made from safer plastics like #1, #2, #4 or #5.  The problem is many plastic toy makers do not provide that information on their products and several still make toys with bpa or phthalates in them.

Other than books, the only toys we got for our children when they were babies were either organic cotton ones, homemade felt or upcycled ones, and wooden toys made in Germany and Thailand.

Why wooden toys?

  • On an aesthetic level, I prefer the look of wooden toys that are made by responsible companies.
  • I like that Haba and Holztiger and Nic and some PlanToys are considered heirloom toys that are sturdy enough to be passed along to future generations.
  • I like the fact that they are more natural looking and make you use your imagination, and I love that they aren't battery operated.  With two kids and a dog, there is enough chaos in my house.  No need to add loud toy sounds and flashing lights to the mix.
These are just personal preferences.  

Since several plastic companies do not disclose what their toys are made of, and I prefer wooden and cloth toys or homemade toys, I just never purchased any plastic toys.

However, once my older son was around 16 months old, we needed outdoor toys, and those are generally plastic.  So for our slide and water table and outdoor riding car, we turned to Step 2.  Several of their toys are made in America and they have the recycling codes listed on many of their toys too, so you know what kind of plastic you're getting.

And when my son turned 2, we got him some Lego Duplos.  As a friend of mine, who also has wooden toys for almost all their toys, puts it, there is no wooden equivalent for Legos.  Legos end up being a big social activity for children and they are phthalate and bpa free, unlike some of the imitation Legos out there.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mango Lassi with Extra Protein

Mango lassi is easily made by simply mixing canned mango pulp with yogurt and water but if you want to eat fresh foods and avoid canned food because of the bpa in the cans' lining that leaches into their contents, this is a simple recipe made from whole foods that tastes great and has protein too.

1 mango (Make sure it is ripe enough so that you don't need to add any sugar to the lassi)
6-7 heaping tablespoons of organic whole yogurt
A handful of pistachios
1.5-2 cups fresh almond milk (to make almond milk just soak your almonds overnight and then drain and blend with three times the water in the morning).  You can adjust this based on how thick you'd like the lassi.
Add a tspn of Chia seeds or flaxseed powder for more protein.

Blend the ingredients together and you're done.  I like the Nutribullet because it is easy to use and clean, and doesn't have bpa or phthalates.
I forgot to write down how many servings this makes and can no longer remember much in these sleep deprived days of caring for an infant and a toddler but I believe it made around 8 small glasses of mango lassi.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.