Monday, December 17, 2012

Guest Post: Reusable Bamboo Utensils Review

I'm really excited to share this next guest post with you! Thank you to Sonja who reviewed the ToGo Ware bamboo utensils and Bambu sporks for us!  Her review along with some great photos is below. Have you used reusable bamboo utensils before? If not, I think Sonja will convert you!

Bamboo Utensils Review from Sonja

            Like many people, I’ve used plastic utensils for years at fast food restaurants and never thought much about it. However, the more I learn about plastic and its detrimental effects on human health and on the health of the planet, I am hit with a twinge of guilt each time I use plastic ware. I am very much a creature of convenience, but because I also value using products that won’t harm me, my family, or the environment, I was thrilled to be asked to review two kinds of bamboo cutlery that were designed to be used by people on the go. 

The To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensils fit nicely into an attractive carrying case with a small carabiner that easily attaches to the handle of my purse to make taking the utensils everywhere with me a no-brainer.  My carrying case is agave, but the cases, made with recycled PET, also come in a variety of other understated colors.  While the Bambu Sporks did not come with their own holder, I kept them in a LunchSkins bag and was able to pack them in my preschooler’s lunch box.  We have each used the utensils almost daily for three weeks in a variety of foods, including green chili burritos, sushi with soy sauce and wasabi, and numerous tomato-based dishes, and the bamboo did not stain nor did it absorb the strong flavors of the foods.  The To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensil Set and Bambu Sporks are easy to clean with warm water and dish soap and have held up beautifully after repeated washings. 

At first, I thought I would use the utensils only for lunches while at work, but having them in them in my purse made it convenient to use them in a variety of other circumstances, as well.  For example, when my family was on the road to visit family for Thanksgiving, we didn’t have time to stop so that I could nurse our infant daughter, so I had to make a bottle of formula in the car to calm her cries. I give her formula so infrequently that although I remembered the bottle, the formula, and the water, I completely forgot about bringing something to stir the formula. Shaking it would cause too many air bubbles, so I was in bind until I remembered the To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo chopsticks.  Perfect!  I pulled one out, stirred the formula, wiped the chopstick with a baby wipe, and put it back in the carrying case to be fully washed later.  Additionally, I found myself using them at the Costco food court, at restaurants when I forgot a spoon for the baby’s food, at work when we had special treats, and in the car after grocery shopping when my daughter just had to have her yogurt. I felt comfortable using both the To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensils and the Bambu Sporks with my young children because the bamboo comes from safe sources and is finished with natural, vegan, food-grade oils.

The To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensils and Bambu Sporks were a hit with me and with my preschooler, but I was curious to see what my pre-teen students thought of them.  Reviewing the utensils came at a perfect time in my 6th grade lesson planning as we were in the middle of a unit on writing about natural resources and how people use them. My students were impressed with the strength of both the Bambu Sporks and the To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensils.  Although bamboo is technically a grass, products made from it are incredibly durable, which makes bamboo products a great alternative to easily-broken plastic ware.  One 12-year-old boy even tested the strength of the Bambu Spork by attempting (unsuccessfully) to snap it in half.  Additionally, the To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensils and Bambu Sporks have an even, smooth texture. We’ve become a culture that is so accustomed to plastic ware on the go that using any other material seemed strange to my students when I first told them about bamboo.  They were concerned that bamboo would cause splinters, making it an unreasonable choice as an eating utensil, but they were shocked to feel just how smooth each piece was.    Given the choice between the two different sets, however, most of my students said they liked how “cute” the Bambu Sporks were.

While I prefered the To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Utensil set for myself, the Bambu Sporks were definitely the more popular choice for the children.  With the holidays upon us, I can’t help but think that these useful, environmentally friendly utensils would make a great stocking stuffer for just about anyone.  

~ Sonja

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cranberries ~ Holiday Eco-Sips & Granola Tarts

How many of you have leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving taking up room in your freezer? I know we did! We 1-1/2 cups of frozen organic cranberries (I know that doesn't seem like a lot but, every square inch in our freezer counts, and it IS FULL haha) leftover from making cranberry sauce and a cranberry-apple pie from Thanksgiving to be exact, and I was determined to incorporate them into December recipes because:

(A) December and cranberries just make sense to me,
(B) I needed to make room in our freezer...and I just wanted to make something fun with cranberries,
(C) I love the color of cranberries and they make any dish/drink look gorgeous (see below), and
(D) I really wanted to make festive eco-sips for a potential Christmas Cocktail hour!

So for those of you also looking for a way to use your leftover cranberries, I think you'll like what this post has in store, especially because I made sure not to waste any of the cranberries. You'll see what I mean below.

Part 1 ~ Making Cranberry Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a common ingredient in a lot of cocktails, but make a cranberry simple syrup and you have a glorified simple syrup that adds a little bit of sweetness and tart and a lot a bit of color!  As I mentioned above, I have 1-1/2 cups of frozen organic cranberries, perfect for making a decent amount of simple syrup for holiday cocktails.  Here is what I did:

  • 1-1/2 cup organic cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a low simmer until the cranberries start to fall apart (about 15 minutes).
  3. Strain cranberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Once you've strained the cranberry mixture, let the strainer sit over the bowl and cool for about an hour to make sure you get all the delicious juice!
  4. After the cranberry syrup has cooled, store it in a mason jar.
What about the leftover cranberry skins and solids? Keep them! I put mine in a glass food storage container and used them in a granola tart recipe at the end of this post.

Part 2 ~ Holiday Eco-Sips with Cranberry Simple Syrup


No, I didn't make a spelling mistake! This is a cranberry twist to the classic Screw Driver, and because it's the holidays, I thought the name Scrooge-Driver fit :).  The recipe below makes one beverage.

  • 1 ounce organic vodka
  • 1 ounce cranberry simple syrup (or more to taste)
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Fresh cranberries for garnish.
  1. Fill a glass with ice. Add vodka and cranberry simple syrup.
  2. Top with orange juice. (About 6 ounces or more depending on your tastes)
  3. Garnish with fresh cranberries.
Cran-"Merry" Mojito

Of course, another set of play-on-words I couldn't help but use!  When I think of winter, Mojitos are not the first thing that comes to mind, but when you add cranberries, I think it changes everything.  From a cool summer cocktail to a refreshing winter drink!  The recipe below makes one Mojito.


  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice (from an organic lime)
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 2 ounces cranberry simple syrup
  • soda water
  • fresh cranberries for garnish
  1. Put mint leaves and lime juice into a glass. Mash the mint leaves with a wooden spoon.
  2. Fill each glass with ice and add rum and syrup.
  3. Top glass with soda water and add fresh cranberries for garnish.

Part 3 ~ Granola Tarts with Cranberry Centers

Not sure what to call the cranberry leftover filling, so if you have a good name, let me know!  The recipe below is amazing (just the right amount of sweet and tart) and perfect for breakfast or dessert!

  • leftover cranberry solids from simple syrup
  • 2 cups old-fashioned organic rolled oats
  • 6 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons Kelapo organic coconut oil (or whatever brand you like to use)
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Combine everything but the cranberry solids in a large bowl.  Spread the mixture evenly on a baking dish (or tart pan, whatever you like to use to make granola).
  3. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
  4. Allow granola to cool.  Here I tried lifting the granola in even squares but it broke...which is fine! Because I was able to mold the granola and make my cranberry tarts.
  5. Place one layer (or spoonful as shown in the picture) of granola in a glass storage container. Spread a cranberry solids over granola. Top with a second layer of granola and store in the fridge.
  6. Top with organic greek yogurt and enjoy!
Happy Holidays!

~ Hannah

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jar of Smiles ~ Simple New Year's Craft!

I'm not the craftiest person out there, so when I do a craft, I like it simple. And this Jar of Smiles IS SIMPLE...if I can do it, I promise anyone can!

This past year, my husband and I have been writing little notes of things that make us smile and placing the notes in a 2012 mason jar.  On New Year's day 2013 we are going to open the jar and reading all of those little things that have made us smile throughout the past year! I can't wait to read everything and re-live each happy moment.  Definitely going to do this again in 2013.

If you decide to make a jar for next year, send me a picture! I'd love to see how you decorate it.  For our 2012 jar, I decorated the mason jar with a ribbon of lace and chalkboard stickers that I got from Williams-Sonoma for $10 (come in a pack of 12 and they are reusable).

~ Hannah

Monday, December 3, 2012

Guest Post: Totally Bamboo Cutting Board Review + Loaded Vegetable Soup Recipe

When Hannah asked me to review a cutting board from Totally Bamboo, I was super excited to use the cutting board in my Loaded Vegetable Soup recipe that requires quite a bit of chopping! First, I will tell you about my experience with the cutting board, and then I will share the recipe with you.

Bamboo is a great choice for cutting boards, for a number of reasons. Bamboo is a 100% renewable (and abundant!) resource that is naturally grown.  It is a naturally hard and dense wood, making it a perfect choice for cutting boards and other utensils.

Totally Bamboo decided to capitalize on bamboo as the new “green” choice for cutting boards, utensils, and a variety of kitchen supplies.  After harvest, bamboo does not need to be replanted due to its extensive root system. Instead, it multiplies “as is,” which is one of the reasons it qualifies as a superior “green” product!

In addition to harvesting the bamboo, Totally Bamboo developed a top notch, non-toxic glue to be used on the cutting boards. They also do not use any artificial dyes or stains to color their boards, so what you see is an all-natural bamboo cutting board! With all the precautions I take in sourcing my food (local, organic, sustainable), it is a relief to know that the board that I prepare my food on is also toxin free!

Caring for Totally Bamboo products is simple. Hand wash only to preserve the natural wood (although some Totally Bamboo products are dishwasher safe, I always hand wash my cutting boards).  No oiling or other special chemicals required!

Using the Cutting Board

I have to confess that I have actually been using a Totally Bamboo brand cutting board for almost two years! I received one as a wedding shower gift and have been using it daily (sometimes multiple times per day) ever since. I love its thin size, easy care, and stability.

In the recipe below, I chopped many, many vegetables. I never had a problem with my knife slipping or the board moving (something I used to experience with plastic cutting boards), and the vegetables were easily pushed into the stockpot for soup. I really can’t say enough good things about this cutting board - it is truly a staple in my real food kitchen!

Loaded Vegetable Soup

I am always looking for new ways to incorporate more vegetables into my family’s diet. This Loaded Vegetable Soup does just that! Be warned: this makes a lot of soup. About 8-10 servings (at least)! It would be perfect for a potluck, family dinner, or to take to a new mom who just had a baby. It freezes beautifully and is perfect for a chilly winter day.

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 pints of beef or chicken stock
1 medium head broccoli
24 oz. strained tomatoes
2 medium zucchinis, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
½ c. frozen corn
1 c. cooked brown rice (or barley or quinoa)
1-2 tsp. salt
1 T. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Raw Parmesan cheese, optional

In a large stockpot, add olive oil, onion, garlic, leeks, and carrots over medium heat.  Sauté for approximately 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add stock and broccoli. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes more. Serve warm, garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Jill Marks is the editor of Modern Alternative Kitchen.  Jill has been on a real food journey for the last year and am passionate about food.  She is a Jesus-loving, Bible-reading, kombucha-brewing, raw milk–drinking, real food–eating gal.  For more information about a real food diet and way of life, head over to the website, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.  
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