Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ark Survival Seeds: Heirloom Non-GMO Seeds

This past weekend, my husband and toddler sat on the grass while I harvested vegetables from the garden. My husband helped me find the peppers hiding underneath the leaves, the tomatoes on the volunteer vines that are starting to take over and the sugar snap that are starting to brown in the heat of the summer. The 16 month old toddler walked around and tried to pick a small jalapeno pepper he has had his eye on for one week. Gardening has become one of my passions and my hobbies. I love the ability to grow my own food. I love being able to go into the yard and pick out a ripe pepper, sugar snap pea or tomato to eat on the spot. Though I do buy seedlings and starter plants at the store, I prefer to sow seeds directly in the ground or start seeds indoors in the winter. I focus on organic and heirloom seeds when available. Ark Survival Seeds are 100% non-GMO, non-hybrid, heirloom, chemical-free produce seeds that are perfect for the average American home garden or storing for self-reliance needs.

Ark Survival Seeds    
   ($24.95, purchase on Amazon)
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Heirloom, non-hybrid

Non-GMO

Chemical-free

Extended life breathable paper storage


One of the first things I noticed is that the packaging is made from paper. Paper storage for seeds is preferred because it is breathable and prevents moisture from accumulating. Ark Survival Seeds are stored in individual paper packets within the larger resealable paper bag. I store seeds that I will use in the near future in the fridge and seeds that I store for self-reliance needs in the freezer (they will keep longer this way).

Since the growing season is already under way, sowing the seeds would not have been prudent. I do plan on sowing the cold weather crop seeds in a few weeks. These include: radishes, beets and lettuce. I will sow the Ark Survival Seeds directly in the ground, following the instructions that are indicated on each seed packet.

I love the variety of vegetables that I can grow with Ark Survival Seeds. If my family had to grow our own produce (without the option of going to the grocery store), Ark Survival Seeds offer a great variety that will keep us satisfied and also offer options for canning and saving seeds. I would feel confident to save the seeds are they are non-GMO, non-hybrid and GMO. The open pollination keeps the seeds true to the original ones and offers us the best option for high quality vegetables.

I plan on starting some of the seeds indoors during the winter months and then transplanting to the garden. I will also add some of the seed packets to my long-term self-reliance storage. Ark Survival Seeds are an affordable and high quality option for growing your own food or adding to your long-term food storage. The sampler pack is perfect for the beginner gardener or a master gardener.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own. 


Monday, July 28, 2014

Healthy Whole Wheat Date Muffins [Recipe]

Ever since I have become a mom, a healthy breakfast or healthy snack that I can grab on-the-go ensures I have enough energy to make it through the day. Being able to give my child the same snack is even better! This muffin recipe originally started out as a bread that I made for years. I came across the Whole Wheat Date Nut Bread recipe in Whole Living magazine. After a while, I started experimenting with different additions and substitutions. I love the versatility and ease of this recipe. Everything I added or substituted made the bread even better. The bread is always delicious and moist.

I am sharing the original bread recipe and my adaptations (in blue). I also list some of the additions/substitutions I use every time and some that I sometimes use. My recent favorite addition (to add more nuts to my 16 month old son's diet) is to grind up nuts to a meal and add them into the batter.

Note: I have reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe by 1/4 cup and it can potentially be reduced to 1/2 cup. Sugar does play a role in baking, so be careful how much you reduce it.

Whole Wheat Date Nut Muffins

Yield: 18-24 muffins (depending on how full you fill the cups)
Bake time: 15 minutes

Vegan (sub flax egg or banana)
Dairy Free (sub flax egg or banana)
Nut Free (leave out nuts)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup pitted dates, chopped (can also sub other dried fruit)
1 large egg (sometimes I use 2 small eggs; can sub flax egg or banana)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use coconut oil; can sub apple sauce (2-4 tbsp))
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (I sub buckwheat flour or other whole grain flours)
1 cup whole-wheat flour (can sub other whole grain flours)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup pecans, chopped (can sub any other nuts or leave out, whole or ground to a meal)
3/4 cup brown sugar (can reduce to 1/2 cup, can sub turbinado)

My Additions (I usually put in)
Nuts of any varieties (whole or ground)
Spices (1 tsp nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, or ginger, 1/2 tsp cloves, all or some)
Hemp protein powder (2 tbsp)
Nutritional yeast (1 tbsp)

Other Additions (I sometimes put in)
Flax meal (2 tbsp)
Hemp seeds (2 tbsp)
Dried fruit (like raisins)
Molasses (1 tbsp)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, pour hot water over dates (and any other dried fruit) and let stand until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk in egg (or flax egg or banana), oil (or apple sauce), and vanilla (and any other wet ingredients).
  4. In another bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, salt, nuts, and sugar (and any other dry ingredients).
  5. Fold wet mixture into dry until just combined.
  6. Fill muffin pan about 3/4 full and smooth the top with a spatula.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes for both regular and mini muffins, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. (bread bakes for about 65 minutes)
  8. Let rest 10 minutes, then remove and move to a cooling rack.



Friday, July 18, 2014

SckoonCup Reusable Menstrual Cup [Giveaway]

SckoonCup is giving away a free SckoonCup reusable menstrual cup to a lucky winner and her 3 friends!

SckoonCup is one of my favorite cups because of the design and the fit. Read more about my experience with SckoonCup

SckoonCup July Giveaway Rules:

To enter Sckoon's Facebook/Instagram giveaway:
1. Like one of their daily posts on Facebook and/or Instagram.
2. Tag up to three friends in the comment area and state why you want to win SckoonCup for you and your 3 friends!
3. Giveaway for US Residents Only.
Contest is from July 15 through July 31, 10pm ET
(No purchase is necessary. This promotion is for US RESIDENTS ONLY).
Disclaimer: No compensation was received to promote this giveaway. All Natural Katie is not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations. All opinions are my own. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Replacing Plastic with Glass and Stainless Steel [#CTWW]

Now that my baby is a toddler, he is on the move. As he is able to play more on his own, I can get a few chores done around the house. I have realized that I spend a lot of time doing chores and activities in the kitchen. From doing dishes to prepping food, the kitchen has become my most important room. I want to create an environment where family time means cooking and eating together. This week's challenge fits perfectly with creating a safe and loving environment in the kitchen.


This week's challenge:

This week, go into your kitchen and look for at least one way to make it greener. You might choose to do something simple like add an aerator to the faucet, convert to cloth towels instead of paper, replace a light bulb with a CFL or LED, or unplug an appliance (especially those with clocks). Maybe you are in the market for new cookware, dishes, etc. and could look for green options. Does your kitchen need paint? Perhaps you grab a brush and use non-VOC colors. You might even be considering a kitchen remodel and could search out the most appropriate Eco-friendly cabinets, counter tops, flooring, etc. The idea, this week, is to look around your kitchen and make a green improvement.

A lot of eco-friendly improvements have been made in the kitchen over the past few years. Let's recount:
  1. Natural dish soap (Tropical Traditions Dish Liquid)
  2. Natural dishwasher tablets
  3. Glass food storage containers
  4. Organic cotton towels
  5. Stainless steel and 100% silicone utensils
  6. Stainless steel and cast iron enameled cookware
  7. Unplugging most appliances when not in use (aside from oven and microwave)
As with any effort to improve our lives, becoming eco-friendly and green in the kitchen is a continuous effort for us. Yet, this effort also presents challenges and needs for compromise. After a couple of years of trying to transition away from paper towels, I have come to accept that it is just not going to happen. The paper towel roll still hides in the cabinet above the stove. I still put out small towels for wiping up spills. And I purchase recycled paper towels. Since converting to cloth towels is not in our future, I am currently focusing on food storage containers.

I have acquired a good collection of glass storage containers for storing leftovers and reheating. The beauty of glass storage containers is that they can be used to reheat food in the microwave, oven, or toaster oven. No need to dirty another dish. Since glass tends to get heavy, I have started purchasing stainless steel containers. Though these cannot be used in the microwave, they provide a lighter eco-friendly option for storing and transporting food. Next on my list is to purchase 3+ cup containers for storing food. This will eliminate the need for plastic storage containers that I currently use.

The plastic storage container cabinet is still overflowing. This cabinet has become one of my toddler's favorite play areas. He loves taking out the containers and lids, stacking them, banging on them, etc. Some of the containers and lids have cracked. These will be repurposed for other storage uses (nails, small toys, etc.), donated (if in good shape), or recycled. I try to repurpose and upcycle items before recycling. However, you can only have so many plastic containers.

>> What is one eco-friendly improvement that you can make to your kitchen??
  


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lambie & Me Swaddle Blankets [Review]


I love baby items that can be used for more one purpose. Swaddle blankets made from cotton muslin, which a mesh or gauze-type open weave allow for breathability, movement and comfort. Swaddle blankets can be used for swaddling a baby, a nursing cover, a car seat or stroller cover, a changing or play mat, a travel blanket and for many other purposes. Muslin swaddle blankets become softer with each wash. They are easy to fold up and take with you wherever you may go. Lambie and Me Swaddle Blankets are a required accessory for your baby registry.

Swaddle Blankets    
   ($29.95)
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
100% Cotton

Meets GOTS organic standard

Multi-purpose




I received the Lambie & Me Swaddle Blankets in the Just Dots design. I love that this design is gender neutral, which means that I can use them well into the future if my husband and I have more children. The fabric right out of the box was a little bit stiff, but softened up after washing and drying on medium heat. Cotton  muslin gets softer with each wash, which means that the blankets get better with age.

When the toddler was a baby, we only used muslin swaddle blankets to swaddle him for sleep. The cotton muslin allows for stretching, which makes it easier to get a good, tight swaddle. We have since used swaddle blankets for just about anything. Covering the stroller when he is sleeping is a great way to ensure that air flow gets inside. I always make sure I have a swaddle blanket in the diaper bag when I leave the house. The most common way I have been using swaddle blankets outside the home is as a lap cover for my toddler when we eat at restaurants. I have even used the swaddle blankets as a bib by trying two ends loosely around his neck.

Lambie & Me Swaddle Blankets are a big size, measuring 47" x 47". They did shrink a little bit after being washed and dried; this is expected with cotton muslin. The cotton meets the Global Organic Textile Standards for certified organic products. Lambie & Me have submitted for USDA Organic certification and are waiting on approval. I love that this product is made from organic cotton because it reduces the amount of pesticides and chemicals that my child gets exposed to.

Lambie & Me Swaddle Blankets would make a great gift for someone who is expecting or just gave birth. The design, size and quality are comparable to the top brands that you usually see at stores. For the only blankets you will ever need, choose Lambie & Me Swaddle Blankets.

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own. 


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