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Beet Chocolate Cake: An Earthy Earth Day Dessert

How can you have your cake and beet it, too?  (That should win an award for worst pun ever.  It doesn’t even make sense.)  Well, I had a surplus of beets and figured I’d try to sneak them into a chocolate confection.  I’ve got to say I was pretty shocked when it actually turned out.  I found a recipe online but modified it so much that I can now claim that this is my own original creation.  (Read my Cooks Illustrated-style account of my little experiment after the recipe if you’re into that kind of thing.)  The result?  A moist, chocolatey, delicious cake that my beet-hating husband and child devoured.

Note: I used two pans to make this after I lost my 9 x 13″ pan in a tragic accident.

Beet Chocolate Cake Recipe

1 ¾ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

¼ cup cocoa

1 lb beets, peeled, steamed, and pureed (yields 2 cups puree)*

¾ cups sugar

½ cup apple sauce

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

3 squares chocolate

½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup chocolate chips



1. Mix the flour, soda, salt, and cocoa in a bowl and set aside.

2. Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl along with the oil. Let cool while preparing step 3.

3. Mix beet puree, sugar, apple sauce, and eggs until well blended.

4. Fold chocolate into beet mixture.

5. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir well.

6. Spread into a 9″ by 13″ pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips. The batter will look disturbingly reddish at this point.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Let cool completely before eating.

*Note on the beets: I prefer to peel beets before steaming them, but you can also steam them, let them cool, and then slip the skins off before pureeing them.  You may need to use a little of the steaming liquid to create your puree.  I used a ¼ cup of beet liquid.  You can make the puree a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge.

The batter is strangely fuchsia before baking

Detailed notes on the creation of this recipe (The part where I pretend I work in the Cooks Illustrated test kitchen): Beet Chocolate cake recipes abound on the Internet.  Even Oprah has one, courtesy Jessica Seinfeld of Deceptively Delicious fame.  Back in my spinach popsicle post, I mentioned the controversy surrounding the idea of “sneaking” vegetables into foods to make kids eat them.  I personally don’t have a problem with it, especially since I am the only one in my household who likes beets.  I needed a new way to prepare them!

Jessica Seinfeld’s recipe called for just a ½ cup of beet puree and 1 ¾ cups sugar for a 9 x 9 inch cake.  My recipe uses two full cups of beet puree and just ¾ cups of sugar for a 9 x 13 inch cake.   The recipe I ended up using and modifying came from and called for a cup of vegetable oil and 1 ½ cups sugar.  I slashed both of these amounts in half and added some apple sauce. 

I also improved their directions for adding melted chocolate to the batter.  Following the original recipe’s directions, I melted the chocolate in the microwave and tried to incorporate it into the batter.  Half of the chocolate adhered to my spatula, and much of it hardened into little clumps as I stirred it.  By melting the chocolate along with the oil and waiting a few minutes, I was able to add the liquid chocolate to the beet mixture without a hitch.

I served up my first attempt of the cake for Audrey’s birthday, and no one guessed the secret ingredient.  I am usually not even much of a chocolate cake fan, but this recipe can’t be beet.  (Second worst pun ever?)

This post is a part of We are THAT Family’s Works for Me Wednesday blog carnival.

Maclaren Beginning baby care product review and giveaway

The company that brought us sturdy, sleek strollers has just launched Beginning, a new line of personal care products for babies.  Quality is the one trait that all Maclaren’s products share and their venture into personal care products for baby is no exception. 

The Protecting Nappy Balm is like nothing you’ve ever used before. Unlike thick and sticky diaper creams, this one goes on like whipped chiffon.  It has a wonderful lavender scent and softens baby’s skin on contact.  Made with natural butters and scented with essential oils, you won’t have to worry about finding parabens or phthalates in this product.  My only complaint with the Protecting Nappy Balm is that the title is far too limiting!  I’ve used it as a baby lotion for after bath time and found that it leaves her skin soft and wonderfully scented.

Would you like to try the Maclaren products for yourself?  I set the Delicate Soothing Baby Soap and  Absorbing Dusting Powder aside so that a lucky reader can try them for herself. Try the following ways of entering and get ready to enjoy these lovely quality products!

Nine Ways to Enter the Giveaway

You can enter more than once! (If you’ve participated in our giveaways before, you’ll know this already).  Each way listed below gets you one entry.  All comments have to be posted BEFORE Wednesday the 5th of May to win.

Remember, leave a separate comment on this post for each entry you want.  If applicable, please leave the link to your Facebook/Twitter/Blog in the comment you leave here.

  1. Leave us a comment on this post.
  2. Visit Maclaren’s web site and then post a comment telling us what caught your eye!
  3. Email a friend about this giveaway.
  4. Join our Facebook fan club
  5. Link to this giveaway post on Facebook or Twitter–tell all your friends to stop by!
  6. Link to this post on your blog!
  7. Add The Eco-nomical Baby Guide to your “to read” shelf on Goodreads
  8. Go read our post on Five Ways to Score a Free Copy of  The Eco-nomical Baby Guide and leave a comment there if you’d like to review our book on your blog.  (Make sure to read the post for more details!) Leave a comment here as well to make sure we can keep track of your entries.
  9. Does your library have copies of the Eco-nomical Baby Guide? If not,request a purchase! (Then come back and post your comment to let us know!)

***The contest ends on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2010***

Winner will be randomly selected.

We will notify the winner via email. Please Note: This contest is open only to U.S. readers.   Enjoy!

But Shopping for Baby is Fun!

Do you need a wipes warmer in order to be the best parent you can possibly be? Will your youngster grow up sickly and deprived without a vibrating bouncy seat that teaches him the colors of the rainbow and how to count to ten in five languages?

In our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we answer these pressing questions and give some commonsense ideas for reducing the amount of baby gear piling up in the nursery. As I was looking over the “Nursery Necessities” chapter of the book, I wondered if we failed to address an important point: Some people truly enjoy buying things—finding adorable little socks and spoons adds to the anticipation when you’re expecting a new baby.

So—what are some great ways to prepare for a visit from the stork without buying anything? Any ideas?

The Saturday Question: How Did You Lose the Baby Weight on a Budget?

If you’re not willing to invest the money or gasoline to drive to the gym a few times a week, is it possible to drop those post-baby pounds?  Absolutely! (Rebecca wrote about free post-pregnancy workouts here.)  But it’s great to hear the creative ways that you’ve found to drop weight without breaking the bank or hurting the environment.  How have you cut calories and found free ways to exercise?  I’m packing on the pounds this pregnancy and already looking forward to being able to be active again so I’m looking forward to your tips!

The Friday Question: How do you treat yourself? Enter our giveaway!

ShowerInfuserDiaper launderer, baby food chef, milk producer, house cleaner, nose wiper, and bath giver.  As parents, our work is never done and it often seems as though there is no time to refresh our energy reserves.  Still, I notice that when I do take time to soak in a bubble bath or journal in silence, I am so much more effective as a mom.  How do you take care of yourself?  Do you have trouble finding a moment to relax?  You’re in luck!

Bath by Bettijo is offering one of our readers a jar of Sweet Peppermint Aromatherapy Shower Infusers.   Simply comment below on your tricks for relaxing and let us know that you’d like to win!  Also, please join our Facebook fan club or email your friends about our website, this month’s fabulous giveaways, and our new book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet.  This contest ends on Thursday, March 11th.  Also, there’s still time to enter our HUGE baby basket giveaway. Thanks for spreading the word and we hope you are our lucky winner!

Save Money on Your Dream Baby Gear–Shop ebay!

This post originally ran on Chatty-T: Random Musings from a Pregnant American in London. Tanya, the 28-year-old author of this article,  writes about pregnancy on her blog. Check it out for her thoughts on maternity wardrobe essentials, her secret to avoiding stretch marks, and much more.

We live in the age of the consumer and I’m staggered by the amount of baby paraphernalia on the market. What do I need? What is excess? Changing tables, breast pumps, reusable diapers, disposable diapers….decisions, decisions, decisions.I haven’t delved too far into this abyss, but I hope take a practical approach to baby shopping based on a mix of real need, environmentally friendly products and value for money rather than whimsical “that is so cute my baby must have it” urges. I believe this is a reasonable approach but have now contradicted my practical mantra and decided that I really want to buy a Bugaboo Cameleon stroller/pram.

Lightweight, compact, suitable from birth and with a fancy-schmancy steering system appropriate for country and city terrain, it ticked lots of my boxes. I’m active; even though I’m having a winter baby, I want to get out of the house as much as I can and walk with baby. We live in an urban environment but I love countryside walks at National Trust properties. Our house is small and doesn’t have the space for a big stroller. And if we’re going to splurge in one area, I was all in favor of doing so on our stroller.
save money on bugaboo_cameleon on ebay

The Cameleon’s price tag of around £700, well over £800 with the car seat etc. gave “splurge” a whole new meaning. Now I see why they are popular with celebrities—they can afford them. But how could we, two hard working young professionals preparing for the costs of a new baby justify paying that much money for a stroller in light of everything else we need to get/do to our house/etc., etc., etc. We just can’t.

It’s then that Chris, also taken with the Cameleon, suggested that we take a spin on ebay for used Bugaboos. I balked at first, but then started to consider the benefits. Buying on ebay would significantly reduce the price tag of an item that, like a new car, majorly devalues once it hits the road. Those that bought them in the first place were likely to have cared for them, but the wear and tear on any stroller we might “win” could be reviewed in person before finalizing the deal and exchanging funds.

Obviously we’d buy a new car seat for safety reasons and would have the option of replacing wheels, bearings, etc. if needed. Notably, buying a used stroller is another form of renewing, reusing and recycling, a green approach often forgotten in the whirlwind of baby buying. While I believe you should examine your chosen stroller in person before making a final purchase, online research and ebay bidding saves numerous trips in the car to Baby’s R Us and the like. I’ve seen a number of two-year-old Bugaboos on ebay that look in mint condition—why should they go to waste? Plus, if I bought my wedding dress on ebay, what should stop me from shopping for a stroller there?!

As my mom points out, the baby doesn’t care what it rides in and I spent the whole of my babyhood in a simple, cheap umbrella stroller. Is having a Bugaboo and its many functions really worth it? That’s something we’ll need to weigh up, but as we do, the ebay route makes our debate viable while also being a bit greener.

Have you been able to justify some splurges with the help of ebay? We want to know all about the steals you’ve found!

No Nursery for Baby

We haven’t picked out colors, or bedding, or painted a fairy mural on the wall.  In fact, our second child has no claim to any wall–or even a room for that matter.

Why have we allowed this to happen?  After all, with our first we decorated with homemade curtains, a rocking chair and a new dresser.  What we quickly found, however, is that our son was rarely in his room.  He co-slept for the first five months and during the day spent most of his time lounging in the living room with us.  He wouldn’t nap in his crib so we wore him in a sling for snoozing or plopped him down on his baby blanket.

We’d happily move everything out to make space for our newborn if we thought she would actually use it. Our spare room is currently our office. Since we’re not sure what kind of sleeper she’ll be and how her crying will affect our two-year-old, we’ve decided to just keep her in our room for a few months and then decide what to do once we get to know her.  We’ve set up a changing table on the dresser and she’ll rest in a co-sleeper that some friends have generously lent us. 

I’m sure our decision would seem strange to some, but luckily my sister, the mother of five children, has pioneered creative accommodations in my family.  It’s impossible for most families that size to afford a six bedroom home, so she’s had babies sleep in walk-in closets, in the bathroom, and in several other creative nooks and crannies over the years.  Now that they’re older, they are all using bunk beds and sharing rooms. 

The great benefit of being more flexible with space, is that it’s possible to live in a smaller house, have less of a carbon footprint and more financial freedom.  I explored this topic quite awhile ago here.  So, if you’re expecting a little one, think outside the box about your baby’s nursery, or lack thereof.  The honest truth is that your baby won’t be aware enough to give the slightest care to where he or she sleeps.  Why not keep it simple at this stage and save up so that you’ll be able to have fun with décor later on?

How did you set up your nursery on a budget?  Or did you opt out of the nursery altogether?  I’ll keep you posted on whether I’m thrilled with our decision or think it was a horrible mistake. 

The Post-Baby Body Blues

For the past twelve weeks I’ve watched calories, joined Baby Boot Camp (an outdoor exercise class for a postpartum workout), and have breastfed this hungry baby of mine every two hours.  I’ve lost four measly pounds from my post-birth weight.  While part of me just wants to throw up my hands and cry into my steel cut oats, the other part of me realizes that patience is key.

losing weight after babySome of us shed weight easily while breastfeeding but apparently twenty percent of us have bodies that actually hold onto pounds while nursing.  I must fit into that lucky fraction because it seems that weight loss was actually easier before I had the baby.  How can that be?

Now that I’m back to work, there’s less time to dedicate to eating right and exercising. But being thrifty and green, my weight loss regime will consist of smaller portions of natural foods and lots of outdoor walks with my baby.  I hope that combining those habits with a bit of patience will help me back into a healthy body.

Do you have any great weight loss tips to contribute?  I’d love to hear them!

Baby Gear I Wish I’d Splurged On After All

If you’ve read The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, you know I got pretty hardcore about baby gear. That is, if it wasn’t going to last a long time or perform five functions at once, I didn’t want it. The pleasant side effects of this policy was that I didn’t have mountains of blinking plastic toys to wade through on my way to the kitchen. I saved money and the environment. Great!

But . . . in retrospect I have to wonder if I might have eased my restrictions just a bit to make my life with a new baby a little easier. In Baby Gear I Lived Without, I go over some of the common baby items I didn’t buy. Here are a few things I might have liked after all:

Bottles (plural). I got by with one bottle for my daughter’s entire babyhood, and I was very proud of it. It was a plastic bottle, too, since I purchased it right before the BPA scare was all over the news and glass bottles came back in style. If I had to do it again, I’d get a set of glass bottles. A whole set!

Breast pump. My hospital gave me a free hand pump, which was nice. But you know what would have been even nicer? A more sophisticated model like the Hygeia breast pump.

Eco-friendly disposable diapers. I bought six packs of disposable diapers for my daughter’s entire diaper-wearing career. That’s an accomplishment to applaud (I guess), but because I used so few disposables, I should have shelled out the extra money for Seventh Generation diapers that don’t use chlorine.

Stroller. We bought a Maclaren Triumph stroller, and it is hands-down the best piece of baby gear I had because we used it daily for over five years. But for a little more money, I could have bought the Maclaren Quest instead, which would have made the first ten weeks with a new baby more enjoyable.

Baby monitor.Our first house was so small a baby monitor wasn’t necessary. We didn’t really need one after we moved, either. But now I wonder what life might have been like with the monitor. I could have ventured out to the backyard during naps or sat out on the front porch reading. Did I inadvertently tether myself to the nursery for all those years?

Dishwasher. This last one is just wishful thinking. There is no way I could have bought a dishwasher in those early days of parenthood. But oh, what a difference it would have made!

Did you purposefully skimp on any baby gear for cost or space reasons? What baby gear do you wish you had? Or what fanciful doodad (maybe some baby bangs?) would you like us to talk you out of buying?

Ultra-Green Transportation: The Bike Trailer/Jogging Stroller

We are outdoors people, and therefore took plenty of walks with Roscoe tucked into his sling in our early parenting days. Even so, I always watched the bikes and their toddler trailers with a certain excitement as they zoomed by. 

When Roscoe was just eight months old, I couldn’t take it anymore and bought a used bike trailer. Our Instep Schwinn bike trailer was $100 on Craigslist and had only been used twice.  It isn’t a fantastically great deal, considering that many of them go on sale for that much new at the end of the season and cost $160 full price, but we’ve been quite happy with it.  It also seats two children so we may eventually use it as a double stroller in the years to come.


Unfortunately, when my safety-oriented hubby checked all regulations on our trailer, I found that baby shouldn’t be riding in it until one year of age.  Since Roscoe’s birthday is in September, we’d have another summer of envying family bike caravans before we got our chance.  Some parents work their way around this rule by putting a child car seat into the bike trailer, but our instructions specifically stated that it was not a safe option.  So, we waited impatiently for Roscoe’s September birthday and then headed out for our first rides.


We were happily surprised by how much we used the bike trailer in the fall. I hooked up the trailer to take Roscoe for wading pool play dates and afternoons in leaf-strewn playgrounds.  There’s enough room for a diaper bag, a raincoat, and a bag of groceries in the back, so I found the trailer/stroller to be ideal for running errands on my bike or by foot.

Besides converting to a running stroller, the trailer has a weather-proof flap that makes it perfect for rainy day walks.  (In Oregon, that’s almost every winter day). We even managed our first family bike caravan on Christmas.  Roscoe was happily impervious to the rain pelting us as we biked at full speed to make it home before the hail hit.  We laughed and sang “Old McRoscoe” as we skedaddled our damp and bundled selves homeward.  It’s a bike trailer memory that will last far beyond Roscoe’s years in it.

Biking with Roscoe is the ultimate environmental solution because it creates benefits that extend well beyond planetary health.  Every time we opt to bike we’re getting exercise, saving loads of gas money, and enjoying the trip just as much as the destination.