Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Do You Wash Your Fruits and Veggies ? (A Great Guide!)

How you wash vegetables and fruits? Organic or non-organic, the washing process is important to kill bacteria, dirt (and pesticides on non-organics).
Women's Health Magazine published a great guide:

Does it have edible skin? 
Think: apples, peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers 

Scrub under running water for 30 to 60 seconds. "Running water helps remove most bacteria," explains Brendan Niemira, Ph.D., lead scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Scrubbing with a vegetable brush or your fingers (to avoid bruising softer fruit like peaches) will help eliminate stubborn hangers-on. 

Does it have a peel? 
Think: melons, oranges, and yes, even bananas 

Use a vegetable brush or an unused toothbrush on the peel under running water for 30 to 60 seconds. The bristles can reach into crevices on textured skins, where dirt hides. Why bother washing it if you're not biting into it? "Microbes from the fruit's skin can spread to the flesh when you touch it with your hands or a knife," says Alfred Bushway, Ph.D., a professor of food science at the University of Maine. And even if you washed your hands, the 20 people who handled that fruit before you may not have. 

Does it grow in a bunch? 
Think: berries, grapes 

Cut off stalks and stems where dirt can hide, dump the fruit into a colander, and hose down with your sink's spray nozzle for at least 60 seconds. (A too-brief rinse will redistribute the dirt, not remove it, according to tests conducted by Alan Johnson at Northeast Laboratories in Connecticut.) Patting the fruit dry with paper towels will further cut down on bacteria, says Sandria Godwin, Ph.D., a professor at Tennessee State University. 

Is it leafy? 
Think: spinach, lettuce (even prewashed mixes) 

Discard the outer leaves and run the rest under cold water for 30 to 60 seconds. Dry with a salad spinner or blot with paper towels. Prewashed mixes are FDA-approved for eating straight from the container, but Godwin discovered "huge differences" in how well various brands of bagged greens were cleaned. So don't wait for a recall—take a few minutes to wash it yourself.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Perfect for Weekend Mornings!

If you read my postings often you probably know by this point how much I enjoy quinoa. This incredibly nutritious ingredient has great taste and texture, and is very versatile. Check out this delicious and very light pancake recipe. Perfect for weekend mornings!

Quinoa Pancakes
Servings: 15 small pancakes (about 5 servings)

-1 cup whole-wheat flour
-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-2 large eggs
-1 1/2 cups buttermilk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3 tablespoons canola oil
-1 cup cooked quinoa (any type)
-1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or other fruit, like sliced bananas, strawberries or raisins (optional)
Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the buttermilk and whisk together, then whisk in the vanilla extract and the oil. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and quickly whisk together. Do not overbeat; a few lumps are fine. Fold in the quinoa. Heat a griddle over medium-hot heat. If necessary, brush with butter or oil. Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons onto the hot griddle. Place six to eight blueberries (or several slices of banana or strawberries) on each pancake. Cook until bubbles begin to break through, two to three minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for about a minute or until nicely browned. Remove from the heat, and continue cooking until all of the batter is used up. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.
Nutritional information per pancake: 105 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 26 milligrams cholesterol; 14 gramscarbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 192 milligrams sodium; 4 grams protein
Source: NYTimes

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Cutest Lil' Table and Chair Set

Kids will love this table and chair set made from recycled material. Environmentally friendly, the set is made from coated cardboard; no tools are required for assembly. It is strong and sturdy but also lightweight and can be folded flat. Krooom Kiddy Set includes a Table and 2 Chairs. Made from reinforced cardboard, it is very sturdy, holding up to 176 lbs. (100 kgs.) per chair / 264 lbs. on the table. Waterproof coating, meets standards of moisture-resistance. Free from hazardous materials.

By Krooom

Double Dark Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti

My Italian roots made me a biscotto lover! Biscotti are delicious as dessert or snack, at any time of the day. When great taste is combined with healthy ingredients, the result is always  fantastic. Check out this Double Dark Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti recipe:

Double Dark Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti
Servings: 30 biscotti

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup canola oil

2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until well combined; set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg, egg yolk, and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in the vanilla and oil until well combined.
With the mixer on low, beat in dry ingredients until combined. Fold in walnuts, chocolate, and ginger with a rubber spatula (dough will be stiff).
With moistened hands shape the dough into 2 logs, each about 9 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. Bake until set on top, about 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Transfer logs to a cutting board and, with a serrated knife, cut each log on the diagonal into 16 slices, each 1/2 inch thick. Bake until crisp, about 20 minutes, turning the biscotti over midway through. Cool 5 minutes on a baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Based on recipe from wholeliving.com

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 EWG's List of Safe and Unsafe Sunscreens

Great news, the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) just released the 2011 sunscreen guide. They recommend  only 20 percent of the 600-plus beach and sport sunscreens evaluated. To score high marks in the rankings, a product must be effective -- adequately protect skin from both UVA (which causes premature aging, skin cancer, and other skin damage) and UVB (which causes sunburn) rays. It must also be safe, free of potentially harmful chemicals. Here is a great summary:
EWG's Sunscreens to Avoid:
How did EWG come up with this list? Each of the products to avoid meets all of these criteria:
  • SPF values above 50-plus. Higher SPF products are not necessarily best. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration says these numbers can be misleading. There's a concern that high SPF products may give people a false sense of security and encourage people to stay out in the sun for too long without reapplying sunscreen. It's also important to note that the SPF is based solely on UVB protection.
  • Sunscreen sprays. They can fill the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breathe in, according to EWG.
  • Contains oxybenzone and vitamin A. Oxybenzone is a concern because it penetrates the skin, is associated with allergic reactions, and is a potential hormone disruptor. Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A that may not be safe when exposed to sunlight. EWG recommends choosing products with one of these ingredients instead: zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX.
Safer, Affordable Sunscreens: 
Sources: EWG and Yahoo

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eco-Friendly (Super Convenient) Collapsable Storage

This collapsable silicone storage container is very convenient! Take a look at some of the features:

  • PVC, phthalate and nitrosamine free
  • Store fresh, homemade baby food or other snacks in sealable storage container
  • Collapse for storage or travel
  • Heat resistant up to 425 degrees Farenheit
  • Silicone dishwasher and microwave safe

And it is under US$13. Great buy, by Green Sprouts

Monday, May 23, 2011

Comfy Baby "Shocks"

I've always thought buying shoes for babies a bit of a money waste. Socks that look like shoes are a much more comfortable, and last a lot longer. And much cheaper (4 pairs for under US$15)!
Check out these organic versions. By Baberoo

Are Hand Sanitizers Really Effective?

Parents often rely on hand sanitizers even after "dirtier" jobs such as diaper changes. They are definitely convenient, but not always effective. We did some research and found some interesting information for you.

According to ThirdAge publication, "hand sanitizers are only 40 percent effective and may last for as little two minutes. In addition, experts say they don’t necessarily work as well as soap and water. Mostly it depends on the kind and amount of germs the hand sanitizer is supposed to kill. The general rule of thumb is this: the longer it's been since you've washed with soap and water, the less effective a hand sanitizer is likely to be. Plus, proteinaceous and fatty materials (both commonly found in most kitchens) are especially resistant to alcohol-based gels. There are a few key germs that alcohol doesn't kill well, such as E. coli, which is why washing with soap and water is best during cooking. The Centers for Disease Control that set the original guidelines stating hand sanitizers were an effective alternative to hand washing, intended them to be used in health-care settings, where doctors and nurses wash their hands several times an hour.
Also, although alcohol-based gels can kill bacteria, they won’t necessarily clean your hands. They won’t remove dirt, which includes organic material such as blood or feces. Soap and water must be the first choice in restrooms. But these alcohol-based sanitizers are effective when it comes to preventing the spread of the seasonal flu, H1N1, colds and other viral- and bacterial-based diseases. And people seem to use hand sanitizers more often than washing their hands. That’s probably why studies have shown how hand sanitizers curb absentee rates in schools and workplaces.  Fast evaporation, coupled with moisturizers, also means hand sanitizers won't dry out your skin.

Source: ThirdAge.com, Shine

Friday, May 20, 2011

Parenting in Times of Information

The news today broadcasts two interesting (and also sad) studies, one shows that after analyzing websites of 15 retailers, about a third of the clothes marketed to tween girls are sexualized, revealing or emphasizing sexual body parts, or presenting sexualized prints. The other study, among high school students from Connecticut, shows that one in every 25 teens has "problematic Internet use". Students reported an "irresistible urge" to be on the Internet and tension when they weren't online, resulting in aggression.

While technology is here to stay, and we can't isolate kids from less than appealing idols such as Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, it is becoming more and more challenging for parents to raise kids with the ideal balance.
We want our kids to be tech savy. Kids these days can't understand life without the huge availability of information and resources readily available online. Just by using Google or Wikipedia, we can find and learn the world. And it is awesome! But kids also need to develop sharp executive skills to allow them to concentrate, learn and make decisions. They can only achieve that by developing their creativity and imagination through active pretend play, reading and play time with other kids, away from the internet, TV or video games. However, we also want our kids to be social and speak their peer's language. That includes knowing references of who and what peers are talking about.
While parents from past generations had to deal with wars, bubbles and terrorism, this is our  moment to manage parenting in times of information!

For more details on the studies mentioned above, please click below 
Trashy Tween Clothes
1 in 25 Teens Addicted to Internet

Home Births Increasing

The increase was driven by white women — 1 in 98 had their babies at home in 2008, the most recent year for which the statistics were available. Only about 1 in 357 black women give birth at home, and just 1 in 500 Hispanic women do.
The increase is notable because doctors groups have been vocal about opposing home births, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has for years warned against home births, arguing they can be unsafe, especially if the mother has high-risk medical conditions, if the attendant is inadequately trained or if there's no quick way to get mother and child to a hospital if something goes awry. However, exactly how unsafe home births are is a matter of medical controversy, with studies offering conflicting conclusions. And some argue that hospitals present their own dangers of infection and sometimes unnecessary medical interventions.
The CDC researchers did find that home births involving medical risks became less common from 2004 to 2008. Home births of infants born prematurely fell by 16 percent, so that by 2008 only 6 percent of all home births involved preterm births. That's less than half the percentage in hospitals.
The study was done by two CDC researchers and a Boston university professor. It was electronically published Friday by a medical journal called Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.
Source: msnbc.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Many Days Can We Safely Keep Leftovers?

According to Fitness Magazine, a Meredith publication, and Shelley Feist from Food Safety Education, we should not rely on the sniff test. Three to four days in the refrigerator is a good rule of thumb, but it also depends on whether the food sat at room temperature for more than two hours and the temperature of your fridge, which should be 40F or cooler.

Source: Fitness Publication

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Taking Both of Them

Summer is around the corner, which means cold weather is no longer an excuse to avoid exercising. Now, if your next excuse is that exercising with 2 kids is too complicated, mmm...this one is for you: double bicycle trailer (and it can be used as a stand alone double trailer/stroller)!
The reviews are fantastic. Check out these features:
  • Folding frame and quick release wheels allow for easy storage.
  • 2-in-1 canopy includes a bug screen and weather shield.
  • Versatile coupler attaches to most bicycles, Includes stroller kit with swiveling front wheel & handle bar.
  • Parking brake offers extra safety while in stroller mode.

BPA Alternatives May Not Be Safer

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that alternative chemicals to BPA might not be much safer. Almost all commercial plastic products sampled in the study, including products advertised as BPA-free, leached chemicals that had estrogenic activity. Some of the BPA-free products showed more estrogenic activity than products with BPA.

Baby Products Containing Carcinogen Chemicals

In a recent research published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology, amounts of flame retardants showed in baby’s products made with polyurethane foam, including nursing pillows, car seats and highchairs. The research found that foam samples from more than a third of the 101 baby products that were tested contained chlorinated Tris, and 80 of the products contained chemical flame retardants of some kind, some of which are considered toxic, though legal to use. In one instance, flame retardants represented 12 percent of the weight of the foam in a changing pad, but most products were closer to 3 to 5 percent. Products examined were changing pads, sleep positioners, portable mattresses, baby carriers, rocking chairs and highchairs. 
Fourteen of the products contained the flame retardant TCEP, which the State of California describes as a cancer-causing agent. Four of them contained Penta-BDE, a flame retardant that builds up in human tissue and that manufacturers voluntarily phased out in 2004; it is banned in many countries, but not the United States, and in some states, including New York.
Source: nytimes

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Truth About Agave

If you are puzzled about Agave nectar as I was, read this interesting article from Experience Life on how similar it can be to HFCS (aka high fructose corn syrup):

Is agave nectar a healthy alternative sweetener or an over-hyped sugar syrup?
The claim: Agave nectar has gotten some positive press for being better for you than sugar and many other sweeteners because it metabolizes more slowly. Food manufacturers who package and sell agave in the U.S. market also claim that it has been used medicinally by indigenous people in Mexico and Central America for centuries.
The reality: How fast or slow agave metabolizes depends on its level and method of processing. Derived from a starchy root, agave has been used in Central America for centuries, but not always as medicine. Indigenous people both fermented it to create an alcoholic beverage and also boiled it to make miel de agave, a reduction they used as a sweetener. But that sweetener, which was minimally refined and probably slower to digest as a result, bears no resemblance to the agave nectar now on most store shelves.
The fine print: The modern process for producing agave nectar is not unlike the process of converting corn into high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Most industrially produced agave syrup is processed with enzymes and other harsh chemicals that convert the starches into fructose, according to osteopathic physician and best-selling author Joseph Mercola, DO. The finished product, agave nectar, is 70 percent (or more) fructose, on par with HFCS.
Bottom line: If you’re avoiding added sugars, and especially fructose, don’t give commercial agave syrup a special pass.

Source: Yahoo.com

Have You Checked Your Sunscreen?

Now that the weather is getting warmer, it is important to use sunscreen! Remember that kids play outside not only at home, but also at school. So, make sure you have a good quality sunscreen handy all the time!

The Environmental Working Group has a database with toxic ratings for most brands in the US market. It's free and very user-friendly.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Healthy Mini-Quiche for the Lunchbox

  • Preparing a healthy lunchbox can be time-consuming, and many of us don't always have enough spare time in the morning. Here is a great option that you can freeze. It is also great for snacks or lunch. It is loaded with proteins and very portable, ideal for kids' lil' fingers!

Healthy Mini-Quiche
Servings: 12 units

  • 8 ounces ground turkey or chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (be creative and use the vegetables that your kids love!)
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup 1% milk

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Coat a nonstick muffin tin generously with cooking spray (see Tip).
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground breast with the oil and cook until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in scallions, cheese and pepper.
Whisk eggs, egg whites and milk in a medium bowl. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the breast and mushrooms mixture into each cup.
Bake until the tops are just beginning to brown, 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a rack on top of the pan, flip it over and turn the quiches out onto the rack. Turn upright and let cool completely.

  • Individually wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat, remove plastic, wrap in a paper towel and microwave on High for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • A good-quality nonstick muffin tin works best for this recipe. If you don't have one, line a regular muffin tin with foil baking cups.
Source: based on recipe from Eating Well

Friday, May 13, 2011

RECALL ALERT: Chives with Listeria

Chives distributed in nine states by an upstate New York company are being recalled because of possible listeria contamination. The chives from Goodness Gardens Inc. of New Hampton were sold primarily through retailers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Alabama, Illinois and Virginia. They were packaged in plastic clamshell containers, 1 pound bags and twist tie bunches. The recalled lot is number 0201111, dated May 6.
Listeria is a bacterium that can cause fever and abdominal illness and serious infections in young children, frail adults and others with weakened immune systems. Infection is sometimes fatal and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. The FDA says there have been no reports of illness associated with the recalled chives. Consumers may return them to retailers for a refund.
Source: msnbc.com