Mango Madness

Whole Foods had a FLASH sale on Mangos that I couldn’t pass up, so I decided to research how to use mangos to make sure these delectable fruits don’t go to waste. I’ve been craving mangos, so I was super-excited to see a tweet that my local shop was offering 10 mangos for $5. I bought a variety of green and yellow mangos to eat through the coming week. The yellow, slightly wrinkled fruits are so tasty right now!

mango madness in a produce bag

Although the instructions on SimplyRecipes.com don’t explain how to entertain your toddler for 5 minutes while slicing a mango, I can assure you that it is possible. Hannah sits on the counter with me while I trim and slice veggies all the time. We are both careful to work around one another since she eagerly reaches her tender fingers for bites as soon as they become available.

I started toting my own shopping bags to the grocery store in an effort to cut down on plastic bag use a few months ago and I am happy to report that it has been going really well. I plan to add a few cotton mesh produce bags to my collection before the Farmer’s Market starts up next month. For now, I’m still trying to avoid buying in plastic, but it is a process. I’m modifying a lot of things about the way I grocery shop in an effort to bring home healthier options for my family. It can be a real challenge to find something to eat that isn’t stored in plastic, so I’m starting simply by doing most of my shopping in the produce section and bringing my own bag. I also love using canvas bags because they are easy to throw in the wash. But, let’s get back to the mango party!

First of all, the raw, sunripened mangos that have been sitting near the window on my counter make the perfect breakfast side, snack, and dessert. The grocery clerk at Whole Foods said that she loves to throw a mango in the food processor with a little vanilla ice cream. That sounds delicious! I also love mangos as a salsa on top of salmon or pureed into a vinaigrette for a salad dressing. Don’t even get me started on all the ways to juice a mango or incorporate it into some of my favorite beverages like margaritas. I decided to make a pinterest board with ideas for using up all the mangos and now I’m regretting not getting more! I doubt that there will be any left at the end of this week with the way Hannah and I tear through fresh fruit, but if there are I can easily cut them up and store the pieces in a glass jar.

How to Freeze a Mango

Similar to freezing other fresh fruits, slice the mango and then start the process in the refrigerator. After they cool overnight, give the jar a quick shake and then transfer to the freezer. This helps keep the pieces from sticking together. These icy mangos can instantly fill a margarita or sorbet puree without defrosting.

Happy eating! Follow my Mango Madness Pinterest board: http://pinterest.com/ecoincognito/mango-madness/

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Cut Apples for Toddlers

toddler eats an appleThe easiest snack for me to get Hannah to eat is a cut apple. She’ll eat a slice of an apple that I cut any time of day, but usually she only eats a slice. Right now, that’s not a problem since I can eagerly gobble up any leftovers due to my increased need for calories from nursing. But, I got to thinking the other day about how much Hannah enjoys learning how to do things on her own and I figured out a neat way to prepare her snack together using a little Montessori inspiration. This is an activity that we can do every day. It leaves no waste and is simple to clean up. Plus, we’ve got a handy, healthy snack ready to head out the door whenever we need one. You could say that we’ve taken the old adage, “An apple a day” to a new level.

Cutting an Apple Together

Our journey starts at the top of the Learning Tower. Hannah Appleseed selects an apple from the lowest drawer in the fridge. If we’re preparing a few apples, we’ll wash them together in a bowl to conserve water. At this point, Hannh holds her peeler at the ready while I slice the apple in half, then into sixths. After that, she can hold a slice (or sneak her first bite) while I peel the remaining slices. Then we place each slice into a reusable baby food jar and close the lids. We store these on the lowest shelf of the fridge, next to her milk. She can reach for a snack whenever she is hungry. By keeping the jars in the fridge and returning them to the fridge right away, I can use them several times before washing. My favorite part of the activity is when Hannah climbs down from the tower and goes to the cabinet under the sink full of purpose. She announces, ‘POST’ and hands me the compost jug to toss our scraps.

Hannah loves routine and she does a great job carrying out steps in sequence. We don’t rush through this because we don’t have to. We make our snack early in the day so that it’s ready at any time. An older kid could probably easily keep all the apple pieces in the same container, but Hannah enjoys opening these jars and dumping them out. Once a day, she shares an apple with her little sister. At just 6 months, Audrey is only beginning to explore foods. Watching the two of them fumble with their fruit brings me a true sense of joy. The only way to make snack time even more enjoyable is to bite into a crisp, refreshing apple myself!

Quit Throwing Out the Most Expensive Ingredient in the Kitchen

Think.Eat.Save – Reduce your foodprint!

Food waste doesn’t start in your fridge and it doesn’t end in your trash can. I’ve seen estimates that Americans as a whole discard at least 40% of the food they purchase. That is a sad fact because if only one in five people are hungry, we clearly have more than enough to go around. I think the biggest problem is too much diversity in food choices. By attempting to please everyone, we make it easier to discard something unappetizing. Here’s my plan to cut down on food waste.

leftoversAt home, we’re keeping our meals simple, especially during the winter. This is one of my favorite ways to be green while saving green. First of all, I’m using the same ingredients over and over so I can save by purchasing the larger quantities. I also don’t balk at buying organic because the prices are closer to the small, non-organic counterparts. We’ve cut back on buying processed foods and I am still campaigning to get my husband on board with drinking more water instead of other beverages. At around $60 per week, our grocery bill is completely manageable even when we factor in $125 at the butcher each season.

It was easy for me to accept the idea of eating chicken noodle soup 4 out of 7 days per week because I grew up eating PB&J nearly every day for years at a time. I’m used to repetition of favorites and I’ve found that my daughter likes it, too. By having this one simple meal as our staple, I can splurge a little on other things. We make a great spread for each Holiday and we like to have a hearty breakfast every weekend. Whether we make french toast or pancakes, our Saturday breakfasts can’t be beat. No matter how small, the leftovers are great for my toddler in a pinch so I save everything.

My microwave is my biggest ally in the kitchen. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to put a healthy meal on the table so quickly for my daughter. My own version of ‘fast food’ generally consists of leftovers. Often, I use 2 oz jars to freeze small portions, but old spaghetti sauce jars also make great storage vessels for anything in the freezer as long as they aren’t filled to the brim.

We finally began composting late last year and I am thrilled that we’re off to such a great start with the practice. I love discarding our leftover peels and kitchen scraps knowing that in a few months they will feed our garden healthy soil. I’ve seen a huge drop in the amount of trash my family produces from the time when my husband and I were just a new couple. Because I changed, I know that others can, too. Taking on a new habit is a challenge, but living with a new habit like being mindful about food consumption is so easy.

There are a lot of additional costs to factor beyond just the price of any food that ends up in the trash. Think about the cost of your trip to the store or the transportation of the food throughout the production process. How much did the packaging cost? When you throw food away, how much are you paying for garbage bags? Your county may even be raising the cost of garbage pickup because of the volume of trash in town is so high. These changes need to start at home because the big companies are even more wasteful. I have seen few fast food restaurants or grocery stores with recycling programs in action. For me, that is inspiration to stay at home and cook a healthy meal.

I value my time at home with my family above all other things. I enjoy taking fewer trips to the grocery store in favor of lazy afternoons reading book after book with my girls. Going to the grocery store with two under two is a huge challenge, even when I wear the baby. By keeping our shopping list consistent and slim, I can get in and out of the store in under an hour. What I’ve noticed so far is that my toddler is very receptive to eating healthy foods when I keep them readily available to her. In fact, I’m going to grab her a carrot right now. We’ll peel it together, compost the peelings and then split the healthy snack. The same foods that used to end up in my trash after being forgotten are now our favorite staples.

I am so happy I made these changes and I invite you to change your food mindset as well. What is one thing that you can do to minimize food waste in your house?

I wrote this post to enter to win an amazing  trip to blog for United Nations Environmental Program’s World Environment Day 2013. If it inspired you to reduce your foodprint, please comment, like, share, tweet, pin and help me get the word out about this important message. Thank you for your support! Learn more: http://unep.org/wed/blog-competition/howto/

Mr. Eco Incognito’s Favorite Super Bowl Recipes

mr eco logoWhen it comes to football foods, my tastes are far from eco-friendly, but there are two ways that I can make the wife happy. She wants me to limit food waste and make sure the food is safe to eat. Which, as someone who recently got food poisoning after a late-night snack tray binge, I can’t really disagree on. With the way things are looking from Mrs. Eco Incognito, I’m hoping next year’s feast won’t include tofurkey wings and triple bean guacamole dip with a side of keen-wah. For the time being, I’m going to enjoy my awesome super bowl recipes. However, I will try to keep an open mind for next year, so if you’ve got a manly meatless meal, lay it on me in the comments.

Here’s the low-down on Food Safety, straight from the USDA:

USDA Food Safety Chart from FoodSafety.gov

USDA Food Safety Chart from FoodSafety.gov

FOUR SIMPLE STEPS TO FOOD SAFETY: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.

Now onto the important stuff. What’s on my superbowl menu? Lil’ Smokies, Ro-tel Cheese Dip, and Honey Barbecue Wings. The recipes are all on this Pinterest board:

 

superbowl foods

Click the picture to see the recipes on Pinterest

 

Mama May I Eat Healthy?

My friend Jessica from Mama May I Shop (www.mamamayishop.com) is arguably one of the most creative Moms that I know. She has a million tricks up her sleeve for entertaining little ones and helping them learn. There’s a lot more to parenting than just providing entertainment, though. It can be a challenge to get kids to eat healthy, but she has some great snack suggestions and advice for making a meal that even the pickiest toddler can’t refuse!
Her two favorite snacks to serve her girls are Trail Mix and anything with Dip. She says that, “Layla loves being the trail mix chef.” Imagine how fun it would be for a kid to mix dried fruits, nut slivers, cereal, and pretzels? Another expert tip, “Anytime you add dip or some cute utensil to pick stuff up it automatically gets eaten.”
Check out this list of snacks to fill a Bento:
toddler meal, snack, kid foodFrozen Dora beans (edamame)
Frozen yogurt sticks (like Popsicles) 
Miniature pepperoni
Cheese sticks – or cheese cubed
Applesauce
Freeze dried yogurt – and fruit
Dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, prunes
Any season fruit
Rice cakes
Homemade granola
Homemade trail mix
Celery with peanut butter and raisins
Apples with peanut butter
Carrot sticks and hummus
Hummus with veggies

What are your favorite trail mix ingredients?

The Perfect No- Cook Recipe for a Toddler Meal

simple toddler meal recipeAt home, I do a lot of Eco Friendly cooking with Cast Iron on an induction stove, but I also like to serve raw or prepared foods that make simple meals. The best way to avoid Fast Food Restaurants is to have your own versions of Fast Food easily available at home. I can get a meal on the table faster than you can say ‘drive through’ because I keep things simple. One of my favorite meals to serve Hannah consists of bite-sized portions of bread, cheese, and fruit. I make it a weekly goal to fill Hannah with healthy portions from the food pyramid. We eat the same meals for a few days in a row to help cut back on food waste and a meal like this is easy to save if there were any leftovers. But, when it comes to cheese, fruit, and bread… there are never leftovers.

To assemble, simply slice all the ingredients into pieces that suit your child. Pea size is best for children close to age one, but they can quickly move up to larger portions as they get more teeth. I also recommend limiting grape servings to 6-8 grapes. Another great serving option is a handy, refillable Squooshi. To watch how I fill that with applesauce, click the Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/user/JBZ118?feature=g-crec-u

For about $8 each week, you can feed your toddler this as a snack or meal 1-3 times per day depending on what else you like to serve. On a given day, I serve Hannah a breakfast of oatmeal, a ready-made snack of Goldfish or Animal Crackers, two plates like the one in the photo, and one serving of soup. She doesn’t eat everything at every meal, but that’s OK. I know that by offering her healthy food all the time, she’ll eat what she needs. If you’d like to try Hannah’s Favorite Recipe for Chicken Noodle, it’s here: https://ecoincognito.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/hannahs-first-homemade-chicken-noodle-soup/

baby sign for moreThere’s nothing I like better than watching Hannah sign for ‘more’ during a meal. I can’t help but oblige when I’ve got plenty of healthy food to serve her. This meal also works great on a picnic. Pack everything in a reusable container with an ice pack and you’re all set.

The trick in the winter months to getting fresh fruit on a budget is buying what’s on sale each week. I also feed Hannah frozen fruit, but I usually mix that in oatmeal, a smoothie, or yogurt since it rarely defrosts well. She loves applesauce, so we are planning to plant apple trees for her this summer. Paired with the raspberries on the bushes in our yard, we’ll have everything we need for “Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy.”

Hannah’s First Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

They say that Chicken Noodle Soup is good for the soul. This is my first winter testing out the homemade version and I already whole-heartedly agree. First of all, it couldn’t be easier to make such a healthy and satisfying meal for my family. More importantly, Hannah LOVES to eat the chicken and fresh veggies. Finding the time to cook with two little ones is not alway easy, so I decided to bring my little assistant into the kitchen with me. Overall, she was an enthusiastic sieu chef. She also performed the royal tasting duties to ensure that the ingredients were safe to eat! I demonstrated how to peel carrots and gave her a peeler. Over time, we’ll work on making that her job.

Chicken Noodle SoupThis recipe is far from perfect, but I like to serve it to Hannah as a finger food with just a little bit of broth. It’s perfect for her because it is light on the salt and heavy on the veggies. I love to watch her eagerly pick up the pieces and announce “NOM!” with every bite.

Ingredients:

1 Whole Chicken

8 Cups Water

6 Carrots

6 Stalks of celery (or, use lots of the smaller stalks and reserve the large pieces for snacks)

1 Onion

4 teaspoons salt

1 clove garlic, diced

1/2 Pound Rotini Pasta Noodles

Directions:

Chop carrots, celery, and onion into 1/4 inch pieces. Dice the garlic. Combine all ingredients, except noodles, in a large pan or slow cooker. For a slow cooker, simmer on low heat for 6-8 hours. If using a dutch oven, bring to a rolling boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 2 hours. Remove the chicken, then skin and discard the bones and fat from the chicken. In the meantime add noodles to the broth to cook for 20 to 60 minutes depending on the cooking method. Dice the chicken and add it back to the soup. Store in quart sized reusable containers and freeze any portions that won’t be eaten within 3 days.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.food.com/recipe/slow-cooker-chicken-noodle-soup-198707

chicken noodle soup recipeThe thing I’m learning about soup is that it’s a great way to use up anything in the fridge. Don’t let veggies go bad, instead make a broth or chili. Freeze extra chicken to include in your next batch of soup. On the other hand, when you cook a chicken like this, you can reserve some for other dishes like quesadillas. Let your creativity guide conscientious food use in the kitchen!

For those who have been following this blog, I’m happy to report that we are now composting. We started reserving scraps over the Holiday and received a new compost bin on Christmas day from my in-laws. Making this soup, reserving the peels for a veggie stock, and then sending everything out to the compost bin where it will ultimately help enrich the soil in our garden this summer was a huge boost for the soul. The meals I make may not always be pretty, but from now on they will be hearty and thoughtfully prepared.

This is a recipe I will be proud to pass down through generations in my family (even if they do add extra salt.)