Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

Here's what I'm eating "too much" of lately:

I am envious of those who live in areas where the strawberries are just now getting ripe. It seems like our strawberry season lasts about a week and I can never get enough! I used up the berries we picked and then resorted to buying organic berries from the grocery store. They are never as good as local berries, but they work well mashed with a little sugar on top of this strawberry shortcake!
I found that spelt flour worked really nicely for the shortcake. I improvised for the cream topping using what I had on hand (and have estimated the amounts below). I like the slightly cultured taste that the cream cheese adds (think creme fraiche), but feel free to substitute your favorite whipped topping.
Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

2 c. flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (use a little less if using Earth Balance)
2 tbs. sugar
4 tbs. vegan butter or oil
3/4 c. non dairy milk

1 lb. strawberries

1/2 c. vegan cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1-2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine dry ingredients, then cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in milk until just combined. Divide batter into two equal parts. Spread one half into a greased round 8" cake pan. Dot the top with a little butter, then spread the remaining batter on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until done.

While the shortcake is baking, prepare the whipped cream. Combine the vegan cream cheese, non dairy milk, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl, and mix with a hand mixer until creamy and lump free. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Wash strawberries, remove tops, and mash with a little sugar until juicy. Slice and reserve a couple berries for garnish, if you like.

When the shortcake is done and cool (or not!), cut into wedges, and split each wedge in half. Scoop some strawberries on one half, and place the other half on top. Scoop some of the cream cheese mixture on top and top off with some more mashed berries, or the reserved berries.

The girls prefer their shortcake "open-faced", and for them I just split the wedges and pile the berries and cream on top of both halves.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

People Towels

Did you know that if you quit using paper towels for one year, and instead used a personal hand towel (as is customary in Japan), you would save 1/4 of a tree, conserve 250 gallons of water, cut carbon emissions by 34 lbs. and reduce landfill waste by 23 lbs.? When I first heard that, it didn't seem like that much... I mean, come on, 1/4 of a tree a year? But then again, these are not little saplings we are talking about. And it's not just me we're talking about, either. So, yeah, it didn't seem like that much... until I started adding it up:

  • 20,000 gallons of water are polluted and 24 trees are consumed to make one ton of paper towels - all for a single use and thrown away.
  • Every day over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced in the U.S. alone.
  • Paper towels, decomposing in landfills, emit powerful greenhouse gases. 
  • Paper was the largest contributor to municipal landfill waste in 2006.
  • The average person uses 2,400 - 3,000 paper towels outside the home each year.

That's pretty huge. Enter PeopleTowels, a really cool company that is spreading awareness about the magnitude of the environmental impact of disposable paper towels. They also offer a solution: reusable personal hand towels made of organic, fair trade cotton, and printed with witty, whimsical, and thought provoking designs.

Very cool, I thought when I first discovered them, and entered a contest on the PeopleTowels Facebook page. I won my first three PeopleTowels and have been a huge fan ever since. Now, if you're like me, you might wonder why you would want to spend money on a little towel instead of making your own. Or using your pants. I am all for DIY, but once I got these towels in my hand, I realized that they are pretty much perfect in every way. The size is perfect. The the organic cotton is wonderfully absorbent and dries quickly. The prints are so cute, and they use eco-friendly dyes to print them. They are nicely hemmed and even have a convenient hanging tag. The folks over at PeopleTowels are  awesome and I am really happy to support them.

Last month I entered the PeopleTowels "Where's Your Towel?" Photo Contest and was one of three winners! Here's my winning shot of my trusty PeopleTowels hanging out between shifts:
And just for fun, a couple of outtakes of my girls with our towels:

And here is the awesome Eco Swag Bag I won!!! 
(Which, as I hoped and expected, was shipped with minimal packaging)

Insulated recycled tote from Blue Avocado
20oz insulated Klean Kanteen
3 Preserve containers
1 reusable stainless steel straw (I've been wanting one of these for months!!)
 1 To-Go Ware RePEat bamboo utensil set
1 Lunchskins reusable sandwich bag
Zhena's Gypsy Tea (not shown)

Pretty awesome, right?!?!

If you're ready to snag your own set of PeopleTowels, head on over to their website and check out the ever changing designs and limited edition prints, and use the code "ambassadoru5b0c" for 10% off your purchase of two or more towels! Also be sure to "like" PeopleTowels on Facebook to keep up with their specials and contest and giveaway announcements! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stearn's Puddle Jumper Review

This is our second year using Stearn's Puddle Jumper life vests, and high time I wrote a little review on them.  If you are not familiar with these life jackets, they are sort of a cross between a life jacket and water wings. I used old fashioned water wings with Miss K from about age 2, and thought that they worked really well (despite later hearing some warnings about them not being safe). I remember using them as a child, so perhaps there was some nostalgia involved, as well. In any case, I liked them (and still do!) and found that they provided enough buoyancy to keep Miss K above water, but not so much that she would just bob around like a cork. The water wings also didn't inhibit movement like a full life jacket did; I bought a life vest for her at one point and she refused to wear it and said it was too tight. I understand parents want to keep their kids safe, but I received a Puddle Jumper as a sample last year, just as 3 year old Miss K was taking off her water wings and swimming a few strokes unassisted. At first I was a little disappointed because I had been so excited about her swimming with no floatation device, and once she tried the Puddle Jumper, she ONLY wanted to swim with the Puddle Jumper. Well, I have to say that this PFD has grown on me a lot since last year- so much that I ended up getting a second one for Miss H, and she loves it just as much. You get the best of both water wings and a life jacket. They are sturdy (we have lost a couple of inflatable wings to children biting through them), comfortable, and cute. I like that the Puddle Jumper is short in the front and open in the back (except for the strap and buckle) and therefore much less restricting than a full life vest, yet is still categorized as a Type V US Coast Guard Approved Life Jacket with Type III performance (which means that it must be buckled in the back and is good for general boating in calm, inland waters, or where there is a good chance for fast rescue). The Puddle Jumper comes in one size and fits 30- 50 lbs. 
(I don't recommend this, but we use these vests- with very close supervision- slightly under the minimum weight; Miss H is not yet 30 lbs. and is able to slip out of her Puddle Jumper when she is on the dock.)

You can pick up Stearns Puddle Jumpers for around $20 on Amazon, and they qualify for free Amazon Prime Shipping with your Amazon Mom account! (I LOVE Amazon Mom- I've got free Prime shipping for the next year!! Have you signed up yet!?)