Thursday, September 30, 2010

RECALL: Fisher-Price High Chairs, Trikes and Toys

Here is another recall for the day! Fisher-Price has recalled more than 10 million products, including high chairs for laceration hazards, trikes that may cause bleeding, and toys for chocking hazards. Unbelievable....

For details on the high chair recall, please click here

For details on trikes recall, please click here

For details on toys recall, please click here

Have You Had Your Veggies Yet?

Three out of four Americans don't eat their daily vegetables and fruits. Shame on you/us!

Easy homework to do, but somehow convenience is always calling...
Here are a few tips to try to incorporate more veggies in our diets:

1. Plan ahead
Pre-slice fruits and vegetables at home and bring them to work/school to snack on through out the day.

2. Eat seasonal produce
As we fall into Autumn, get inspired by seasonal dishes. Eating seasonal produce means eating fruits and vegetables at their freshest and most delicious.

3. Add vegetables to your favorite meals
Include fruits and vegetables into salads and heartier meals that you would not necessarily think to, such as salads, pasta sauces, smoothies, etc

4. Go vegetarian, at least once a week
A vegetarian diet isn't for everyone, but mastering even one delicious vegetarian meal a week can make a big difference for your health.

5. Make it fun
Make a family occasion out of it like "Fruit Night Fridays," "Berry Sundays/Sundaes," or "Monday Night Crudite."

6. Get the kids involved
Have your kids think up exciting ideas that they would want to eat and make it a project you can share with them.

7. Journal your daily fruit and veggie intake and monitor it
Try and see if you can increase just one more serving a day for a few months. In no time, it will become a daily habit, you will look better and feel healthier!
Sources: Yahoo and The Daily Green

RECALL: Sleep Positioners

Sleep positioners marketed with the promise of helping babies sleep safely are too dangerous to use and should not be sold, U.S. officials warned on Wednesday. "The deaths and dangerous situations resulting from the use of infant sleep positioners are a serious concern," Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a joint statement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In the last 13 years, U.S. officials have received 12 reports of infants who suffocated because of sleep positioner products.
Sleep positioners sometimes are marketed with the claim that they can reduce gastroesophageal reflux disease, so-called "flat head syndrome", and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but can suffocate babies and cause other harm, CPSC and FDA officials said in the statement.

Source: FDA and msnbc

Help Spread the Word

Every 69 seconds, a woman dies of breast cancer somewhere in the world. #fightbreastcancer at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Activity Clock

Beautiful set for kids, including a clock, 9 basic activity cards and 3 blank cards. Children will learn about time, daily activities and discipline...great skills to learn!
Made with environmentally safe materials. Ideal for kids 4+ years of age.

By Plan Toys

Top 10 Toxins, How to Protect Your Family

The USA Today published a list of the top 10 toxins and how to protect our families. Very insightful. Take a look:

Lead -- potent neurotoxin that can cause brain damage, even in low doses.
Although it was taken out of gasoline three decades ago, it's still found in many homes, especially those built before 1978....When renovating an older home, use only contractors who are trained in lead-safe work practices. If you do the work yourself, consider taking a one-day class in lead safety.

Phthalates -- these chemicals, often used to soften plastics, can interfere with the hormone system.
When possible, choose products labeled as phthalate-free or PVC-free. Some hospitals are switching to phthalate-free products, especially in their neonatal intensive care units. Avoid bottles marked with the #3 recycling code.

Tobacco -- Its smoke can contain up to 4,0000 chemicals, including cadmium, lead and formaldehyde.
Don't smoke or allow anyone to smoke near your family.

Pesticides - poisons intended to kill weeds, fungi, insects and small animals.
Wash your produce...Don't use insect sprays in the home or on your pets. Take off your shoes when entering the home to avoid tracking in pesticides...When possible, buy food that is organic or locally grown, because the U.S. has stricter pesticide laws than many other regions.

Mercury -- potent neurotoxin.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pregnant women and children should completely avoid high-mercury fish: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Radon -- a naturally-occurring, radioactive gas that's the second-leading cause of lung cancer (behind tobacco.)
Test your home for radon or have an inspection by a radon specialist. Professionals can seal a home's foundation, if needed.

Cadmium - heavy metal linked to cancer, kidney damage and bone damage.
Check product recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has recalled thousands of pieces of cadmium-tainted products. The commission's chairman, Inis Tenenbaum, advises parents to think carefully before buying low-cost children's jewelry.

Arsenic -- common wood preservative that was banned from playgrounds in 2004 but can be found at older ones as well as on fences and decks.
Leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking it in and wash your hands frequently.

Volatile organic compounds - chemical fumes produced by paints , solvents or cleaning products that are linked to health problems such as asthma.
Open the windows at least once a day, when possible...Choose low-VOC paints. Reduce use of chemical cleaning products in favor of homemade, green cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda.

Bisphenol A - estrogen-like ingredient often found in clean, hard plastics, the lining of metal cans and slippery paper receipts. It's associated in animal studies with genital birth abnormalities and breast cancer.
Choose BPA-free products. Instead of liquid formula, use powdered formula, whose can't aren't lined with BPA, according to the Environmental Working Group. Choose fresh produce or dried beans, rather than canned.

Source: USAToday

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Balanced Monkeys

Cute toy to stimulate children to calculate distance and balance. The objective it to keep the monkeys balanced! A good introduction to mathematical skills.
Made with environmentally safe material only. Ideal for kids 3+ years of age.

By Plan Toys

Good Ol' Pasta: Redressed

We came across this rice pasta recipe and loved the idea! Not only it tastes great, it is nutritious, come with fewer calories and is gluten-free. Nothing like a good change from time to time! Kudos to Martha Shulman, the author.

Rice Sticks With Uncooked Tomato Sauce, Tuna, Capers and Olives
Servings: 4 portions
  • 1 pound ripe, locally grown tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, green shoots removed, finely chopped or pureed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 5-ounce can water-packed light tuna, drained and broken up with a fork, or 5 to 6 ounces cooked fresh tuna, cut in thin bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 10 imported black olives, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves
  • 7 to 8 ounces thin rice sticks
Begin heating a large pot of water. Cut the tomatoes in half along the equator. Set a strainer over a bowl, and squeeze out the seeds. Rub the seed pods against the strainer to extract the juice, and discard the seeds. Cupping the skin side of the tomatoes in your hand, grate the tomatoes on the large holes of a box grater into a wide bowl. Stir in the garlic, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar, tuna, capers, olives and olive oil. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes while you soak the rice sticks.
Place the rice sticks in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Soak for 20 minutes or until pliable, and drain. Using kitchen scissors, cut the noodles in half, into roughly 6- to 8-inch lengths.
When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the rice sticks. Boil one minute until tender but still al dente, and drain. Toss at once with the tomato mixture and the basil, and serve.


Nutritional information per serving: 287 calories; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 19 milligrams cholesterol; 47 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber (6 grams if using brown rice noodles); 293 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 13 grams protein

Source: NYTimes

Monday, September 27, 2010

Episencial Eco-Giveaway: Be the Next Winner!!

Have you entered to win our weekly Episencial Eco-Giveaway yet? The third winner will be announced next Monday! Episencial is a skincare line formulated specifically for the developing skin type of babies and kids. This all natural skincare is free from the bad stuff (like fragrances and parabens) and loaded with good stuff like healthy organics. Products are packaged in recycled materials free of phthalate and BpA and are manufactured using solar power.

The prizes are amazing!
- 4 baskets of products worth US $75 each. More winners will be announced on October 4 and 11, 2010.

It is very easy to participate!
All participants must be subscribed until the end of the Eco-Giveaway.

Logon to Episencial's Facebook page for specials and great tips on gentle skincare. Also, check for product information and baby skincare education.

Good luck!

Winners will be chosen at random.
 "Episencial Baskets" are provided by Episencial.

Stop Infections In Its Tracks

The chilly weather is coming, bringing cold and flu seasons, not to mention ear and throat infections. The best way to keep your kids healthy through the season is to consistently eliminate sources of common diseases. Help kids stay well to begin with. Here are some quick tips:

  • Teach kids to wash their hands with soap and warm water after playing and before eating. They should scrub for 30 seconds. Maybe you can create a 30 second song for when they wash hands!
  • Use alcohol-based hand wipes or hand gels when you can't get to a sink. Avoid those with triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills only weaker bacteria. 
  • Show your child how to cough into her sleeve, and use tissues instead of her hands to wipe her nose.
  • Have each family member use his/her own towel.
  • Clean all wounds properly: Flush for one minute with running water, wash with soap, rinse, and cover with a bandage until healed.
  • Make sure your kids are eating a healthy diet, full of vitamins that will help boost their immune systems.  
  • Lastly, consult your pediatrician on best ways to keep your kids healthy. 
 Source: Redbook and Shine

Congratulations Kailey, Another Winner!

Congratulations Kailey Bettasso, Zip Code 61356. You are the winner of our second Episencial Eco-Giveaway. Please e-mail us at to redeem your prize.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pretty, Simple and Green

Adorable shoes with uppers of washable eco-certified suede. Soft linings made of a certified organic cotton and hemp blend. The soles are made of natural and recycled non marking rubber. What's more, water based glue is used to hold the shoe together, not petroleum based. 

By Simple Shoes

Fruit Bars

Fruit bars are healthy, delicious, and perfect for the lunchbox. Check out this awesome recipe:
Healthy Fruit Bars
Servings: 18 bars


  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) or old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Fruit Filling

  • 6 cups chopped peaches, nectarines, plums and/or cherries (any combination, fresh or frozen), divided
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare crust: Combine 3/4 cup nuts (or oats), whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter; pulse until well incorporated.
Whisk egg, oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the mixture to the food processor. Process, then pulse, scraping down the sides, if necessary, until the mixture begins to clump, 30 to 45 seconds (it will look crumbly). Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and combine in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped nuts (or oats). Set aside for the topping.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
To prepare fruit filling & assemble bars: Combine 4 cups chopped fruit, orange juice, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. (It may take up to 10 minutes to get a thick result if you start with frozen fruit.) Stir in the remaining 2 cups fruit and vanilla.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Spread the fruit filling over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling.
Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake until the crust and topping are lightly brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least 1 1/2 hours.

Per bar: 197 calories; 9 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 19 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrates; 11 g added sugars; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 69 mg sodium; 147 mg potassium.

Source: based on recipe from Eating Well

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recall: Similac Infant Formula

Abbott Laboratories recalled a certain Similac-brand, powder infant formulas. Abbott is recalling these products following an internal quality review, which detected the possibility of the presence of a small common beetle in the product produced in one production area in a single manufacturing facility.
The recall of these powder infant formulas includes Similac powder product lines offered in plastic containers, and in sizes such as 8-ounce, 12.4-ounce and 12.9-ounce cans.
There is a possibility that infants who consume formula containing the beetles or their larvae, could experience symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort and refusal to eat as a result of small insect parts irritating the GI tract.
To immediately find out if the product in your possession is included in this recall, parents and caregivers should visit, and type in their lot number to determine if their product is affected,or call (800) 986-8850.

Here is a direct link to verify your lot number. Click here

Episencial Eco-Giveaway: Be Enter to Win Now for Monday's Prize!

Have you entered to win our weekly Episencial Eco-Giveaway yet? The second winner will be announced this Monday! Episencial is a skincare line formulated specifically for the developing skin type of babies and kids. This all natural skincare is free from the bad stuff (like fragrances and parabens) and loaded with good stuff like healthy organics. Products are packaged in recycled materials free of phthalate and BpA and are manufactured using solar power.

The prizes are amazing!
- 4 baskets of products worth US $75 each. More winners will be announced on September 27, October 4 and 11, 2010.

It is very easy to participate!
All participants must be subscribed until the end of the Eco-Giveaway.

Logon to Episencial's Facebook page for specials and great tips on gentle skincare. Also, check for product information and baby skincare education.

Good luck!

Winners will be chosen at random.
 "Episencial Baskets" are provided by Episencial.

Congratulations Nikki, our First Winner!

Congratulations Nikki Ronaghan, Zip Code 08501. You are the winner of our first Episencial Eco-Giveaway. Please e-mail us at to redeem your prize.

Can Exercise Make Kids Happier and Smarter?

Exercising should be part of our daily routine! Finding some activities that are pleasurable, fun and enjoyable to do while burning some calories and building up those muscles is key. Involving your kids in the activities is a good way to do it. Kids like to imitate their parents, seeing them as role models.
Also, according to a recent research from the University of Illinois, fitter kids generally score better on cognitive challenges. Children’s brains were scanned during tests to filter out unnecessary information and attend to relevant cues. An M.R.I. showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply.
A second group of children was also tested on complex memory. Such thinking is associated with activity in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain’s medial temporal lobes. The M.R.I. scans revealed that the fittest children had heftier hippocampi. Being fit may “enhance neurocognition” in young people, the authors concluded.
Evidence accumulates about the positive impact of even small amounts of aerobic activity. Past studies from the University of Illinois found that “just 20 minutes of walking” before a test raised children’s scores, even if the children were otherwise unfit or overweight, says Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology at the university and the senior author of many of the recent studies. Sustained aerobic fitness in young people has a very compelling neurological impact.
There are several ways to involve your kids, from power walking with a stroller, to playing sports, swimming, or simply long walks. Just be creative and enjoy the fun!

Power Walking with a Stroller:

Walking at a fast pace with a stroller is a very good way to exercise. It helps you burn more calories by speeding up the metabolism while strengthening and toning the upper and lower leg and glutes muscles. You can also add several strength exercises with the help of the stroller. The idea is to have a full workout while enjoying the company of your kids.
You can start with about 30 minutes of exercise, and increase the length of your intervals as you improve your fitness. Exercising 5 times a week is ideal!
First you need to make sure your stroller is safe for your little one at a faster speed. You will also need comfortable clothes and good running shoes for yourself.
- Warm up for about 10 minutes by pushing the stroller as you walk.
- Stretch your legs and arms for about 5 minutes.
- Now speed up your walk, at a pace that is just slightly uncomfortable but enough to carry a conversation. Try to keep your pace for 20-30 minutes to start with.
- Find a safe place for a quick stop for the first set of strength exercises. Using the stroller handles, do 20 squats at a slow pace. Stand with about hip or shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees and lower into a squat, keeping the knees in line with the toes. Lower down as far as you can, but never lower than 90 degrees, and push into the heels to go back to starting position.
- Back to power walk for another 15 minutes.
- Find another safe place for a quick stop and lunges! Using the stroller handles, do 20 lunges at a slow pace. Stand in a split stance, with feet about 3 feet apart. You want both knees to be at about 90-degree angles at the bottom of the movement. Bend the knees and lower the back knee toward the floor, keeping the front heel down and the knee directly over the center of the foot. Keep the torso straight and abs in as you push through the front heel and back to starting position.
- Back to your power walk for another 10 minutes.
- Find a safe place and comfortable place for some abs (maybe back home). You can lie down next to the stroller and a routine of abs. Follow your doctor's instructions on types and quantity of post-partum crunches suitable for you.
- Finish with a good Stretch

Great Exercised to Do with a Baby or Toddler

First, set the mood with some fun and energetic music. Also, the room should be safe enough to allow you and your baby or toddler to be on the floor, comfortably.
Here are some examples of effective exercises to do your your little one (s)
Lower body: Sets of squats, dips, lunges, step-ups, or step-downs holding your child as resistance. You can also leave your child on the floor, bassinet or stroller close to you while you make the movements.
Upper body: Sets of push-ups, triceps dips, biceps resistance weight lifting using weights or holding your baby with both arms up and down. You can use the same resistance to work your shoulders.
Abs: you can use a Swiss ball. Do some abs holding your baby on your lap (bouncing up and down is very entertaining for babies and toddlers!)
Check out the links below for videos with more examples of effective movements to make with your kids (they will love it!):


Do-Your-Own Blocks: Fun and Creative!

Painting your own building blocks is a fun and creative project for kids. Here’s how to do it, from Crafting a Green World:

You will need:
  • Wooden building blocks, clean and sanded. All shapes and sizes of blocks are appropriate for this project.
  • Primer. You can use any primer that’s appropriate for wood and for your paints. Since I’m using artist’s acrylics, I prime with gesso.
  • Paints and brushes. Choose the best-quality acrylic paints that you can afford. Craft acrylics are fine, but I personally prefer artist’s acrylics.
  • Sealant or varnish. Again, use any sealant that’s appropriate to use with your paints.
1. Prime your blocks and let dry. You’ll have to do this in two stages, because you’ll need to leave one surface unpainted so that the block can rest on it while all the other surfaces dry. Then, paint that one unfinished surface and let it dry.
2. Paint your blocks and let dry, again doing this in two stages. The flatter that you keep your painted surfaces, the better they’ll continue to function as building blocks, so avoid leaving ridges or drips in the paint as you work.
3. When the blocks are completely dry, usually overnight, seal them with your sealant or varnish.

These blocks are gorgeous, educational, creative, and fun, and since you painted them yourself, you know that they’re non-toxic.

Source: Crafting a Green World

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HFCS or Table Sugar?

What is the difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar? Which one is best? We think they should all be avoided, or at least minimized in kids' diet. There are much better options out there such as honey, maple syrup, etc (or nothing!).
Here is some interesting clarification published by the New York Times:

"Most nutrition scientists say that consumer anxiety about high-fructose corn syrup is misdirected. Only about half of the added sugar in the American diet comes from corn sources. All added sugars, they say, including those from sugar cane and beets, are cause for concern. Sugar calories now account for 16 percent of the calories Americans consume, a 50 percent increase from the 1970s.
High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, also known as table sugar, are made up of about the same amount of glucose and fructose. The American Dietetic Association says the two sweeteners are “nutritionally equivalent” and “indistinguishable” once absorbed in the bloodstream. The American Medical Association has said it’s “unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.”
But there are some differences. To make table sugar, the sugar from beets and cane essentially is squeezed out of the plants. Corn syrup, meanwhile, is heavily processed using enzymes to turn cornstarch into glucose and then fructose.
In high-fructose corn syrup, the glucose and fructose molecules are chemically separate. In table sugar, the molecules are chemically bonded, forming a disaccharide that is broken apart inside the body."


Lil' Drummer

This is hysterically cute! A drum set for kids. It comes with two sizes of drums, an attached guiro for rhythmic sound, and a metal cymbal. And what's more, this toy is made from all natural organic recycled rubber wood and water based dyes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Congratulations Kim, A Room for Frances Eco-Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations Kim Hlavka, you are the winner of the $300 gift certificate from A Room for Frances. You will love the service!

Make Your Own Castle Tower: Awesome!

This is so cool! Eco-friendly tower that kids can assemble and color themselves. It is double fun: to assemble and to play.   Each Castle Tower comes with it's own set of watercolors and easily accepts markers or crayons.
You can also customize your Castle Tower with  6 extra shields. Genius!

By Imagination Box

Safe Freezing Tips for Produce

Freezing produce is a great option, especially for small families. You can save big bucks! Check out these safe freezing tips. 

The Basics
  1. Use the freshest produce you can find, and freeze it as soon as you can -- the quicker the better.
  2. Make sure to wash and dry everything thoroughly. Remove pits and cut into uniform sized pieces.
  3. Use containers, freezer bags or a vacuum seal system -- and remember to leave headroom for expansion.
  4. Label with contents and date.
  5. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator.
Freezing Fruit
There are several approaches to freezing fruit: Packed in sugar, packed in a simple sugar syrup, or (my preference) naked. Many experts suggest that freezing with sugar helps to better preserve the flavor and texture of fruit. While once defrosted much of the sugar can be carefully rinsed off, but pure-and-simple still works wonderfully.
To pack in sugar you only need to gently combine the prepared fruit in sugar, let stand until the fruit begins to release their juices, then pack for freezing.
To make a simple sugar syrup, heat 3 cups of sugar with 4 cups of water over medium-high heat until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Let cool and pour over prepared fruit to cover, and pack for freezing.
The best method for freezing fruit au natural is to prepare the fruit and spread out on cookie sheets to freeze. Once frozen, pack in freezer bags
Freezing Vegetables
Freezing vegetables is not quite as straightforward as fruit. Although just as easy, different vegetables respond to different methods; some do better cooked, some better raw.
There are several excellent websites that provide specific advice for different vegetables. Garden Guides has one of the most comprehensive guide to freezing vegetables.

Freezing Herbs
Drying herbs perhaps comes to mind before freezing them, but herbs do quite well when frozen. The most basic method involves removing the leaves from the stem, then rinsing and drying. Place the leaves on a tray in the freezer, and when frozen gather them in a freezer bag for easier storage.
Freezing pesto in ice cube trays and then popping the pesto cubes into a bag for easy dispersion is a handy and popular trick.

Sources: Care2 and Yahoo Green

Genetically Engineered Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration is deciding on whether to approve the sale of genetically engineered fish, the first such animal approved for human consumption.

The agency has already said the salmon, which grows twice as fast as conventional salmon, is as safe to eat as the traditional variety.

Genetically engineered animals are not clones, which the FDA has already said are safe to eat. Clones are copies of an animal. Genetically engineered animals have their DNA altered.

Critics have two main concerns: The safety of the food to humans and the salmon's effect on the environment.
Because the altered fish has never been eaten before, they say, it could include dangerous allergens, especially because seafood is highly allergenic.
They also worry that the fish will escape and intermingle with the wild salmon population, which is already endangered.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Healthy Tacos..Yummy!

Tacos are so much fun to eat, and kids love them! We came across a great recipe with just 261 calories per portion (2 small tacos). The secret to make them healthy and lean is to “oven fry” the taco shells instead of deep frying or using store-bought. To do this, spray them with cooking spray then bake them until they’re crisp. This reduces fat and saturated fat. Also, combine lean ground beef and turkey to cut out much of the fat and saturated fat.

Healthy Tacos
Servings: 6 servings, 2 filled tacos each
  • 12 Crispy Taco Shells, (recipe follows)
  • Lean & Spicy Taco Meat (recipe follows)
  • 3 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, (3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup prepared salsa
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
To assemble, fill each taco shell with (in any order): a generous 3 tablespoons taco meat, 1/4 cup lettuce, 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 tablespoon tomato, 1 tablespoon salsa, 1 teaspoon onion.

Taco Shells
  • 12 6-inch corn tortillas
  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divide
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Wrap 4 tortillas in a barely damp cloth or paper towel and microwave on High until steamed, about 30 seconds. (Alternatively, wrap in foil and heat in the preheated oven until steaming, 5 to 7 minutes.) Coat both sides with cooking spray; sprinkle a little chili powder and salt on one side.
Drape each tortilla over a panel on a baked-taco rack and bake until crispy and brown, 7 to 10 minutes. (Or see Kitchen Tip.)
Remove the shells from the rack and repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the remaining 8 tortillas.

Taco Meat

  • 8 ounces 93%-lean ground beef
  • 8 ounces 99%-lean ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles, preferably Rotel brand (see Tip), or 1 1/4 cups petite-diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile, or 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Place beef, turkey and onion in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain off fat. Wipe out the pan. Return the meat to the pan and add tomatoes, cumin, ground chipotle (or chili powder) and oregano. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 6 minutes.


Per serving: 261 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 38 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrates; 24 g protein; 5 g fiber; 582 mg sodium; 272 mg potassium.

Source: Eating Well

Episencial Eco-Giveaway: Be Entered to Win Now!

Have you entered to win our weekly Episencial Eco-Giveaway yet? The first winner will be announced this Monday! Episencial is a skincare line formulated specifically for the developing skin type of babies and kids. This all natural skincare is free from the bad stuff (like fragrances and parabens) and loaded with good stuff like healthy organics. Products are packaged in recycled materials free of phthalate and BpA and are manufactured using solar power.

The prizes are amazing!
- 4 baskets of products worth US $75 each. Winners will be announced on September 20, 27, October 4 and 11, 2010.

It is very easy to participate!
All participants must be subscribed until the end of the Eco-Giveaway.

Logon to Episencial's Facebook page for specials and great tips on gentle skincare. Also, check for product information and baby skincare education.

Good luck!

Winners will be chosen at random.
 "Episencial Baskets" are provided by Episencial.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Animal Rockers

Adorable animal-shaped rocking chairs by Manny and Simon. Made in the US, constructed out of 100% post-industrial recycled wooden residuals, finished with zero-VOC paints. Shapes include dino, elephant, lamb and monkey.

Reusable Growth Charts

These growth charts are so cute! They work on any non-porous flat surface and are removable and reusable, do not wrinkle or rip. Come with one tree trunk in two pieces, three branches, two birds, three apples, and 46 leaves of various sizes.
Finished tree should measure approx. 15"x46". Growth chart measures 1.5 to 4 feet. Easy to clean with a damp cloth.
Made in the U.S.A. from adhesive fabric.
Made by Petit Collage

Wrap and Mat

Wrap-N-Mat is a great concept! You can place the sandwich or other snack foods in the center of the wrap and fold left to right, top to bottom and close the hook and loop fasteners.
Having a mat when taking kids out to eat is especially useful for finger foods!

Made by Wrap-N-Mat

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Home Lead Testing

LeadCheck is a kit that helps us identify leachable lead from any surface in about 30 seconds. Lead can be found in so many places in the home such as mini-blinds, paint, ceramics, vinyl lunchboxes and bathtubs. Scary!
LeadCheck is recognized by the EPA, and can be purchased at most home improvement stores. LeadCheck also has test kits for detecting lead in drinking water or soil.

Serenade that Crib!

Very cute musical mobile for a crib! Aquatic animals revolve and zigzag around pond axis. It plays two classical tunes and two special nature tunes. It also comes with a night light, and you can activate it using a remote control. How cool!!

Sold at Amazon

No Antibiotics to Healthy Animals!

Dispensing antibiotics to healthy animals is routine in American farms. The practice is increasingly condemned by medical experts who say it contributes to a growing scourge of modern medicine: the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including dangerous E. coli strains that account for millions of bladder infections each year, as well as resistant types of salmonella and other microbes.

The Food and Drug Administration has released a draft of guidelines on animal antibiotics yet, intended to reduce what it calls a clear risk to human health. They would end farm uses of the drugs simply to promote faster animal growth and call for tighter oversight by veterinarians.
The agency’s final version is expected within months.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LAST WEEKEND!! A Room for Frances Eco-Giveaway, US$300 Worth of E-Design

We've been discussing for weeks eco-friendly decoration and design with Claudia Kalur, from A Room for Frances. Now we are very excited to launch A Room for Frances Eco-Giveaway!
Claudia is giving our fans a Gift Certificate worth US$300 for an E-Design Package for a nursery or a kids' bedroom or playroom*.

How to Participate (so easy!): 
Invite 5 friends to become fans (a.k.a."Like") of EcoLogical Mom and A Room for Frances on Facebook starting September 4 through 19, 2010.
You will be entered after e-mailing the names of your 5 friends to, and they become fans of both Facebook pages. The winner will be announced on September 20, 2010.
All participants and friends must be fans (a.k.a. "Like") of both Facebook pages until the end of the Eco-Giveaway.
Click here to become fan of Eco.Logical.Mom
Click here to become fan of A Room for Frances

*The e-Design package consists of a picture storyboard for the room you want to decorate, one floor plan to show furniture layout, and a detailed purchasing list of the items to complete your room, as well as two revisions, if needed. Click here  for more details.

Good luck!

Winners will be chosen at random.
 "Gift Certificate" is provided by A Room for Frances

Beyond the Nursery

This is the last week of our eco-friendly decoration discussions with Claudia Kalur, from A Room for Frances. As always, please feel free to ask questions using the comments field her or our Facebook page. 

Beyond the Nursery - Part VIII
Playrooms, Studies, Closets, Toddler and Teen Rooms and Beyond

So far we have been talking mostly about setting up your baby's first room - but creating a healthy room does not have to end there. In fact, most principles we have talked about apply to the rest of the house.
As we have seen, as you child grows, you can easily make his or her bedroom grow with them by adapting furniture and changing an element here and there. If you have a separate room as the play or study room, there are a few things you may want to do differently than a bedroom and there is other type of furniture that you will need.
In these rooms a must-have piece is a table. Many children furniture retailers have a table that has different sets of legs at different heights so you can change them as you child gets taller and keep on using the same top. This is a great idea - and if you are handy, you can also make your own by buying a table top and legs at Home Depot, Lowe's or any unfinished furniture shop. Alternatively, you can re-use a vintage table top (if made of wood, remember to sand it very well to avoid splinters). For teenager's rooms, any table can be a desk, as long as it is at the correct height.
Shelving is also fundamental in play/studyrooms. My favourite option is to re-use old or vintage bookcases but I also love designing shelving units that fit snug to a space or niche - for this you will need a handy friend or spouse. Remember to buy only FSC certified wood and waterbased paints.
Storage is fundamental in any house - and more true in a child's space. I have resigned to the fact that we have a child and the whole house is as much hers as is ours so we do not limit her toys to any specific area of the house. But we do have areas where the toys go at the end of the day. I prefer baskets but there are cloth cubes, or wire cubes, plastic and wood containers - the choices are endless. For playrooms, it is also fun to re-use cardboard boxes (same or different sizes) that can either stand alone or sit in a shelf. The cardboard can be painted or covered in a pretty wrapping paper, or fabric or wallpaper - and for more fun, make it a crafts project with your child!
To Sum up... Becoming an eco-conscious inhabitant of the planet takes some adjusting to the way we think and live. It is hard because we have been used to living large in a planet that seems so abundant in resources but it is now fundamental that we change the way we have been living because there are so many of us and we are using those resources at lighting speed. And if you stop to think - it is not about the planet, it is all about us, the survival of the human race. Climate change is just that, it has happened before, the planet will survive, as it always has - but all living beings, us, animals, the trees, will NOT. When we talk about being eco-friendly, it is honestly to guarantee the survival of living creatures, it is truly for the sake of future generations' existence.
But if you are reading this, you have taken the first step - you want to make that change. Remember the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If you buy good quality items (or re-use something old or vintage or second hand), the longer things will last, the less you will need to use, the less you will need to throw away, which means that we will use fewer natural resources, which in turn will allows us to be here in this planet for longer. 

Click here to access last week's posting from Claudia.

Claudia Kalur is the founder of A Room for Frances, Nursery and Children's Room Design. She lives in rural Connecticut with her husband, Steven (an architect who specializes in green building systems), their 18-month-old daughter, Margot, and their doggy, Bayou.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Versatile Eco Potty

One of our Facebook fans told us about this potty, and we really liked it!
The Safety 1st Nature Next potty chair is a 3-in-1 potty. Use the ring on your toilet, as a step stool, or as a stand alone potty. Also, the lid locks for carrying. It is made of 50% bio-plastic in a zero landfill factory.
It's one of the most versatile potties available: a potty, trainer seat, and step stool, all in 1.

Made in USA by Safety 1st

Keeping Healthy Nutrients

Prevention publication put together a list of healthy nutrients that expire very quickly in our pantries. Check out the list and how to make them last longer.

Green tea
Antioxidants decrease an average of 32% after 6 months on the shelf, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science. These antioxidants, known as catechins, may decrease your risk of several types of cancer, but they are sensitive to both oxygen and light. Sadly, tea, unlike wine, does not improve with age.
Make it last: "Buy tea in airtight packages such as tins, rather than cellophane wraps, which air can penetrate," advises Rona Tison of ITO EN, the world's largest supplier of green tea. Store your tea bags in sealed, opaque canisters in a cool spot. "Green tea is more sensitive to heat than black tea, so place your sealed container in the refrigerator to keep the leaves fresh and healthy for as long as possible," she says.

Tomato products
Canned tomato juice loses 50% of its lycopene after 3 months in the refrigerator — even when it's unopened, says a study in Food Chemistry. Similarly, scientists in Spain have found that the lycopene in ketchup deteriorates over time. That's a shame, because it's a potent antioxidant that may fight many forms of cancer and heart disease and even strengthen bones.
Make it last: Skip the premade tomato sauce and make your own using boxed whole or diced tomatoes rather than pureed. Whole and diced tomatoes contain more solids, which provide added protection for the lycopene, says B. H. Chen, PhD, a food scientist at Fu Jen University in Taiwan who analyzes the stability of carotenoids. If ketchup sits in your fridge for months, buy smaller bottles, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD. Fresh bottles tend to start off with higher levels of lycopene.

Olive oil
The potency of antioxidants declined 40% after 6 months, according to a 2009 Italian study of bottled olive oil in the Journal of Food Science. Yet in many households, bottles can sit on the shelf for much longer than that. 
Make it last: Don't store oil near the stove or leave it uncapped for long, as it's sensitive to oxygen, heat and light, says Doug Balentine, PhD, director of nutrition sciences at Bertolli, an olive oil producer. If you don't cook with it often, buy smaller bottles.

Grains and dry goods 
The riboflavin in enriched macaroni plummeted 50% after being exposed to light for only a day, according to a Journal of Food Science study. Even dim light can degrade riboflavin by 80% after 3 months, according to another study. The folic acid in enriched flour is also sensitive to both light and oxygen. 
Make it last: Store grains in opaque ceramic containers, far from the stove's damaging heat. A dry cupboard is better than the fridge, except in the case of brown rice, which contains a small amount of oil and therefore spoils faster at room temperature.

Click here for the complete list

Friday, September 10, 2010

Perfect for LunchBoxes!

We came across this recipe for oatmeal-fruit-chocolate cookies and loved the idea of having them in kids lunchboxes. They are delicious and very nutritious. Kids (and adults) love it. Try it out. They are easy to make.

Kitchen Sink Cookies
Servings: 18-20 cookies

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine butter, oil and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down bowl, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add applesauce, egg white and vanilla and mix to combine. Add flour, oatmeal, salt and cinnamon and mix just until just combined. Add cherries, apricots, walnuts and chocolate and mix to combine.
Spray 1 baking sheet with cooking spray. Using 1 tablespoon cookie dough at a time, roll into balls and place 2-inches apart on baking sheet. Press cookies down with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly, as cookies will not spread as much as cookies with more butter. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned but still soft. Remove from oven and cool on racks.

Source: 2007, Ellie Krieger, All rights reserved

Chemical Linked to Higher Cholesterol in Children

Children and teens exposed to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the chemical used to make many non-stick and stain-proof coatings, have elevated cholesterol levels, reports a landmark study by West Virginia University researchers.
Their findings were published in this month’s edition of the peer-reviewed journal Archive of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
This research, involving 12,476 participants 1-to-18 years old, found a link between body burden levels of PFOA and serum lipid levels, an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, metabolic problems and other long-term health consequences.

Source: EWG

Eco Potty

Potty can be eco-friendly now! Becopotty is made of bamboo waste, rice husks and biodegradable resin. It will start biodegrading as soon as you pop it in your garden.

By BecoThings 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Introducing Episencial Baby Skincare Eco-Giveaway. We are Thrilled....

We are so excited to introduce our new weekly Episencial Eco-Giveaway! Episencial is a skincare line formulated specifically for the developing skin type of babies and kids! This all natural skincare is free from the bad stuff (like fragrances and parabens) and loaded with good stuff like healthy organics. Products are packaged in recycled materials free of phthalate and BpA and are manufactured using solar power.

The prizes are amazing!
- 4 baskets of products worth US $75 each. Winners will be announced on September 20, 27, October 4 and 11, 2010.

It is very easy to participate!
All participants must be subscribed until the end of the Eco-Giveaway.

Logon to Episencial's Facebook page for specials and great tips on gentle skincare. Also, check for product information and baby skincare education.

Good luck!

Winners will be chosen at random.
 "Episencial Baskets" are provided by Episencial.

Stroller with Skateboards

If you have two or more kids you know how challenging it can be to move around in an organized way. We spot this new stroller that allows parents to carry up to three kids around, one sitting and up to two in the side skateboards. Pretty cool!

The new Orbit Baby Sidekick Stroller Board can be used with children from age 2 up to 50lbs.

LunchBox Hazard. Be Careful!

The Good Housekeeping publication evaluated 43 lunchboxes, and the results are shocking! Not one kept food safely chilled until the time a child eats lunch. From the time the child leaves the house the temperature of his or her lunch begins to rise. Once perishable foods reach temperatures of 40°F or above, they should be eaten within 2 hours to minimize the risk of food-borne illness.

They recommended 3 strategies for ensuring a safe lunch at school:

Freeze the sandwich: In their tests, a sandwich pulled straight from the fridge didn't stay safely chilled for two hours, even when packed with an ice pack. By freezing the sandwich the night before, including an ice pack, and refrigerating everything else (like fruit or juice boxes) a sandwich can stay cold until lunchtime.

Pack nonperishables: Another safe option is to pack foods that aren't perishable. Crackers, whole fruit, and juice boxes are obvious choices.

Consider school lunch: You won't be able to control exactly what your child eats, but hopefully you can be sure that the food is handled and refrigerated properly. School lunch also tends to be inexpensive and offers variety.

Source: Good Housekeeping, Shine

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Safest and Worst Booster Seats

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its 2010 report on safest and worst boosters in America. The Institute assessed the boosters using a specially outfitted crash test dummy representing an average-size 6-year-old child. Engineers measured how 3-point lap and shoulder belts fit the dummy in each of the tested boosters under 4 conditions spanning the range of safety belt configurations in vehicle models. An overall rating for each booster is then assigned based on the range of scores for the lap and shoulder belt measurements.

On the "Not Recommended" list are: Eddie Bauer Deluxe, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1, Evenflo Express, Evenflo Generations 65, Evenflo Sightseer, Harmony Baby Armor, Safety 1st All-in-One, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite.

Click here to access the complete list of Best Bets, Good Bets and Not Recommended.

Raw Food Safety Tips

The New York Times put together a useful list of food safety tips, especially for raw food items. Check it out!

Use pasteurized eggs: If you are not willing to give up soft-boiled eggs or unbaked cookie dough, or you are using a recipe that calls for raw or partly cooked eggs, “pasteurized eggs are the easiest way to deal with the risk” said Dr. Michael Doyle with the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.
Pasteurized eggs are heated in the shell to kill harmful bacteria and viruses but still taste and look like regular eggs. They are sold in most grocery stores and come with a red “P” stamped on the carton or on the eggs themselves.
Prepare for sticker shock! Pasteurized eggs can cost almost $5 a dozen, compared with about $4 for organic eggs and $3 for regular. You can soften the budget blow by using pasteurized eggs only when the eggs will be raw or partly cooked in the finished dish, like classic Caesar salad, especially since eggs keep in the refrigerator for three to five weeks.
“I buy farmer’s market eggs for hard-boiled and omelets, but I always have some pasteurized eggs on hand for baking because we all love to nibble the cookie dough,” Ms. McCleary said.

Wash all produce: Even if you are going to peel a cucumber or melon, give it a good scrub so you don’t transfer bacteria from the knife or peeler to the part you are going to eat.
Most important, wash all lettuce, even if it comes in a bag that says triple washed. Better yet, skip the expensive bag and buy whole head lettuce, which is cheaper and less likely to be contaminated inside. Dr. Doyle recommends removing and discarding the outer leaves. After washing your hands, rinse the inner leaves thoroughly.
Invest in a salad spinner to make the job easier. There are lots of fancy models that cost $30 or more, but you can buy a basic plastic model that will get the job done for about $10.

Learn to love well done: Cooking thoroughly is the best way to eliminate harmful bacteria from meats and poultry. For a list of temperatures for various foods, check the Web site, and don’t rely on your eye alone. Pick up an inexpensive meat thermometer (no need for a digital model) next time you are in the grocery store.

The right cutting boards: Always prepare raw meats and poultry on one cutting board, using another for vegetables. Clean both with warm soapy water after each use. Every few days sanitize your cutting boards with a solution of one tablespoon bleach in one gallon of water. Allow the cutting board to stand in the solution for several minutes, then rinse with clear water. More tips are available at the Department of Agriculture’s Web site.
There is conflicting scientific evidence whether wood or plastic cutting boards are safer, said Nancy Donley, board president at Safe Tables Our Priority, a nonprofit advocacy group working to prevent foodborne illness. So use whichever you prefer or is on sale. The important thing is to keep boards clean and replace them when they become scored because pathogens can hide in the grooves.

Understand "organic": "Organic doesn't necessarily mean safe," Ms. Donley said, noting that the organic label means grown without synthetic pesticides. "It has nothing to do with bacteria and other pathogens." This became especially apparent in 2006, when some organic growers were involved in the recall of E. coli-tainted spinach.
On the other hand, there is something reassuring about buying from a small organic farmer at a local stand or farmers’ market, even if it does cost more. Like Ms. McCleary, most people can’t help but feel that food grown and raised on a small farm is a lower risk.
Even so, remember that you need to handle anything organic — meat, poultry, produce — the same as nonorganic, said Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a coalition of industry and advocacy groups. You should still keep meats and vegetables separate to avoid cross-contamination, wash all produce thoroughly and wash platters and other surfaces that come into contact with raw meat and poultry. Thoroughly cook meats, poultry and eggs. For more safe handling and cooking tips, go to the partnership’s Web site at

Be smart about leftovers: Nothing suits a tight budget better than leftovers. But keeping food too long can pose a risk. “There’s a myth out there that if leftovers smell O.K., they’re O.K. to eat,” Ms. Feist said. “But you can’t smell, see or taste the bacteri that causes illness.”
Keep in mind this advice from the Center for Science in the Public Interest: Don’t leave food out longer than two hours, and use or freeze all leftovers within four days.
To avoid throwing out food (and wasting money), try to plan your week’s menu and shopping list with leftovers in mind — roast chicken one day, chicken salad sandwiches the next — to make sure leftovers get used quickly.
Finally, keep an eye on an elderly relative’s refrigerator. “The elderly are often likely to keep food too long,” Ms. Feist said. “But they are more at risk of getting seriously ill from tainted food.”