Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let's Get Crunchy...

Many people are aware these days of the potential toxicity of household products. We work to reduce the toxins we are aware of in our food and in our cleaning supplies but what about... deodorant??

Commercial deodorant / antiperspirant does two things: prevents odor and moisture. Sweat is a natural process of cleansing the body, it doesn't actually smell. Foul body odor is created when the moisture reacts with bacteria on the skin. Many scented deodorants (like other fragranced items) don't eliminate the odor but simply overpower it. People like the feeling of staying "dry" because they associate sweat with stench. If  there are toxins in your body they will come out through your pores and it will probably smell. If a person consumes adequate amounts of water throughout the day and limits the bacteria causing "junk" they ingest the sweat will be odorless.

Aluminum is the targeted ingredient in many antiperspirants because it has been linked to skin allergies, cancer and alzheimer's disease along with other ailments. Preventing the release of sweat can cause a buildup of sebum inside the sweat gland resulting in a painful and unsightly cyst. The yellow stains in the pits of your white shirts are not from sweat but from the reaction of the sweat with the antiperspirant. 

Another common but known dangerous branch of ingredients called parabens are widely used in cosmetics to increase shelf life. Nobody wants to smell bad, and when the thought of giving up deodorant is mentioned certain images come to mind; it doesn't have to be like that.

You can make a powerful yet gentle deodorant with ingredients from your kitchen. If the ingredients are safe to eat, you can bet they won't increase your risk of cancer or degenerative diseases. 
You will need:
  • Coconut Oil (found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking Soda
  • Fine ground salt (optional)
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • A container to put it in

To Prepare:

Start by measuring out the coconut oil (CO). You will need different amounts depending on the size of the container you are working with. I'd start with 1-2 Tablespoons. 

Coconut oil is used because it is an easily accessible plant based oil that is solid at room temperature. It is very gentle and moisturizing on the skin. Side note: also great for cooking at high temperatures and is full of healthy fats!

Coconut oil with baking soda and cornstarch added
Heat the CO in the microwave for 15 - 30 seconds until softened. It doesn't have to be completely melted. Add equal amounts of both cornstarch and baking soda i.e. if you used 1 Tbsp CO use 1 Tbsp each of baking soda and cornstarch.

Baking soda works as a natural deodorizer while cornstarch absorbs moisture. This will not keep you 100% dry, however, I have found it works much better than the "natural" deodorants I have tried.

If you'd like to add a little salt at this point you can add about 1/2 tsp per 1 Tbsp of the other ingredients. Too much will be too drying and it will have a grainy feel. You can stop the process here if you prefer an unscented deodorant. Most likely you won't stink, but you won't smell nice either. 

Salt is also a natural deodorizer, it helps absorb moisture and has antibacterial properties - further neutralizing odor. 

After the dry ingredients are well mixed with the CO you can add a few drops of pure essential oil. I like to start with a drop or two of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender because of their soothing scent and antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Remember: if there's no bacteria, there's no stink. 

 You only need a few drops! I use about 2 drops of each oil because they are very powerful and too much can sting or irritate your skin. 
Voila! Let the mixture cool to room temperature and its ready to use. This 2 oz container lasts me about 2 months. I apply a small amount with my fingers after I shower and I'm good. I haven't timed the longest it has worked for me but I'd say at least 12 hours. 

I put it to the test a few weeks ago when I sat at an outdoor tennis match in the Florida heat and humidity; I was sweating like crazy and was sure the deodorant wouldn't hold up but it did. I was definitely hooked after that. 

It even helps soothe razor burn and irritation so there's no reason not to try it. It melts quickly in the heat and becomes very solid in the cold but neither affects its effectiveness. You can always move it from fridge to microwave to find what works best for you.

More information on aluminum, sweat, and deodorant can be found here and here

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Warm Lentil Salad

Dinner on Day 3 got our hopes up again. We made a warm lentil salad and it was delicious.
First I thought I'd share with you a minor tofu mishap I had at lunch:
I was making a sandwich and I thought I'd use up some of the leftover tofu we had so I got my sandwich all ready while it was cooking with some hummus and fresh veggies but when I went to put on my slice of tofu the disaster occurred. Luckily I had more and the dog wasn't interested but it was still funny.

Onto this Lentil Salad...

The recipe I had called for 2 cups cooked lentils but when I went to the cupboard I only had 1/2 cup dried lentils so I substituted half brown rice and it was awesome so you could use either. 

You will need:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked lentils ( or 1 cup lentils, 1 cup brown rice)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp spicy mustard
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachios
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • optional crumbled feta

To Prepare:
  1. Cook rice as directed
  2. While rice is cooking, chop onion
  3. When rice has about 20 minutes left, add lentils with equal amount of water; along with vinegar, mustard and onion
  4. Once cooked through (about 20 minutes) add pistachios, cherries / cranberries, mint and parsley
  5. Season with salt and pepper, top with crumbled feta and serve

Here is the final product:
This dish really got us more excited about the no meat thing. It was filling, with a good combination of salty, sweet, tangy and crunchy. We'll definitely be eating this again and I recommend it to everyone.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seitan Stir Fry

Day 2 was stir-fry. We eat a lot of stir fry anyway because it's cheap, easy and nutritious. You can season it differently to get a variety of flavors. We could have just done vegetable story fry but I wanted to experiment a little.

Seitan is a vegetarian protein made from wheat gluten. It has a firmer texture than tofu, giving it a more "meat-like" texture. It also, like tofu, has no flavor of its own.

I started with noodles (you could also use brown rice) and cooked them as usual. In a small fry pan I added a little oil, the seitan, and a little lemon juice.

In a larger fry pan I cooked the frozen stir fry vegetables. When the veggies were almost finished I added some stir - fry sauce. Once the noodles were done, so was just about everything else. I scooped some noodles and vegetables into a bowl and topped with a few pieces of seitan and Ta-Da!

The seitan wasn't terrible I would probably do it again. The thing that caught us off guard was that it looked just like chicken, but it had a texture very unlike chicken so you think you are eating gross chicken. But if you keep in your mind that it is wheat gluten, all is well. It didn't taste bad, in fact it just tasted like stir fry sauce. The texture is something I'd need to get used to, though.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

30 Days

Vegetarian for 30 Days. This is the new experiment going on at our house. I thought it would be interesting to see if we noticed any changes after avoiding meat for one month straight, and we could experiment with different recipes, too.When I proposed this to my husband, I told him that I would like to try it, I didn't expect him to. He said he was all for it. Cool.

I have been reading about how minimizing meat consumption can increase energy, and of course save money, so what do we have to lose?!

Dinner for Day 1was Moroccan Stew.
  • Potatoes
  • Butternut Squash
  • Bell Pepper
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes 
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Broth
You will also need:
  • Saffron
  • Fennel
  • Cloves
  • Parsley
  • Allspice
  • Garlic
  • Paprika
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppercorn
  • Coriander
  • Ginger
  • Cumin

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat a little olive oil and simmer the onions with a 1/4 tsp each of garlic, paprika, cinnamon, and saffron.

Mix together equal parts (about 1/4 tsp) cumin, fennel, peppercorn, allspice, clove, coriander and ginger; mix into vegetable broth. Coat vegetables evenly with broth and spice mixture. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 20- 25 minutes. Garnish with Parsley.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Antibacterial Soap

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use of household antibacterial cleaners. They are made to keep your house and body free from harmful bacteria, but often they are harmful in themselves (they are intended to kill bacteria after all). One problem is that they kill all bacteria, so when you come back into contact with dangerous bacteria there is no defense to protect you from it. Another problem is the evidence that common ingredients used, like triclosan, are harmful to our bodies and the environment; but many common diseases are viral and cannot be prevented by antibacterial products anyway (Priesnitz).

Of course places like hospitals and restaurants need to clean and disinfect to keep people safe but for most healthy people your home is better off without these chemicals.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap, 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint, 32-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 2)
As you all know, I try to keep my home and my body as free from synthetic chemicals as possible. I did a post on the wonders of Dr. Bronner's Sals Suds not too long ago and today I'd like to tell you all about the wonders of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

These soaps are vegetable based castile soaps which have been around for a very long time. They have retained glycerin so they are much less drying than many soaps without added junk. 

These can be used for just about any household job but I like them most for bathing and hand soap. They come very concentrated so you'll probably have to dilute before using.

Culligan RDSH-C115 RainDisc Shower Head with Filter, Chrome Finish In the shower I dilute it 1:1 in an empty container and use it to wash head to toe. My skin stays soft and I rarely need extra moisturizer. It works wonders as a face wash because it is oil based; it removes makeup easily but you don't get that tight feeling afterwards. My skin has also cleared up tremendously and I am giving credit to the soap. 

RSVP Acrylic Foaming Soap PumpIn my bathrooms I dilute it in an old foaming soap dispenser, filling the dispenser with 3/4 water and 1/4 soap. I buy the unscented and add essential oils myself, but many are available. 

If you still can't kick the antibacterial habit there is lavender, tea tree, peppermint and eucalyptus scents which all have antibacterial properties without the risk of harming your body, the environment or creating super germs. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"So... What Do You Eat?"

Oddly enough, I get that question often. My friends, family and co-workers understand that I am health conscious and make an effort to bring whole nutrition to every meal. I limit my processed food intake which is easier than most people think - it's just different. To answer some questions, I am going to attempt to explain what I eat to show people that eating healthy isn't a burden.

1. "It's not a diet, but a lifestyle." I didn't make this change overnight. I hate when people see you eating healthy or buying fresh produce and they say "You're being so good" or " I should really go on a diet." Everything you eat is part of your diet. It's your choice if it's a nutritious one or not. A weight-loss diet usually means cutting out things like fat, carbs, sugar, etc. to stimulate the metabolism. The problem is that it's not permanent or maintainable. Once you reach your fitness goal and return to your "pre-diet" diet, you fall back to square one.

It's important to make changes that are maintainable. You cannot live the rest of your life without any carbohydrates or drinking nothing but fruit juice and weight loss shakes. Your body is your most powerful tool, don't you want to fuel it properly?

Yin Yang Flag Polyester 3 ft. x 5 ft.2. Life is about balance. If you can balance your energy equally between, work, your personal life, and your spiritual life, health will come. If you can find balance emotionally, you will be able to balance your nutrition, too.

Balance of nutrition comes in meal planning. Macaroni and cheese is not a meal. Every meal should be a mixture of fat, protein, and complex carbohydrates. There are many books and websites to help you find this information: educate yourself.

Good fat comes from nuts, oils, seafood and seeds.

Protein comes from meat, beans, dairy, tofu and whole grains.

Complex carbohydrates are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes and all vegetables are great complex carbohydrates. They break down slowly, stabilizing blood sugar.

Avoid chemicals. Preservatives, synthetic coloring, pesticides and stabilizers offer no nutritional value. They also are not easily broken down in our bodies, if at all. When these are ingested our bodies waste precious time and energy trying to make use out of them instead of extracting nutrients to fuel our organs, regulate our blood sugar and fight diseases. Give your body a break, it works hard. This is easily done by buying foods without packaging (i.e. fresh) and reading the labels on your packaged food. The one with the least "fake" ingredients is going to be the best; even if it's not the lowest in fat, sugar, calories or carbohydrates.

3. Be prepared. It sounds dumb but if you have a plan, ordering pizza and pulling in a drive thru won't happen. Keep a healthy snack handy. Fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas keep well at room temperature. A few nuts will give your brain a boost with protein and healthy fats. Some packaged nutrition bars like Cliff of Kind bars are good in a pinch. Beware of foods like yogurt and granola bars that seem healthy but are loaded with processed sugar. Keeping water on hand will keep you away from the soda machine.

Rival RO180 18-Quart Roaster Oven, White

Every week, we started making a "menu." We pick out five recipes for dinner for the week and use those to make our grocery list. We found that five allows for structure, but also some freedom if we decide to go out one night or have left overs. We have all the ingredients and a written plan so there's no excuse to eat junk.

Breakfast items we always keep on hand include fresh fruit, bread for sandwiches or toast, eggs, and steel cut oats.

We save money by buying our fresh produce at the local farmer's market, and what we can't buy fresh we buy frozen. I don't like cans because there is some sketchy findings in the BPA lining used in tin cans. When we do buy things like applesauce or pasta sauce we use glass containers which are also recyclable in our area.

Here is a copy of one of our weekly menus to get an idea of what meals in our house look like. I don't eat much meat so often times we cook the meat separate and he will have the meat and I will have beans or tofu. All our pasta and rice is whole grain and we use organic milk and yogurt.

Spring Chicken Salad

red potatoes
plain greek yogurt
bell pepper
chicken or beans
  1. Boil potatoes until tender, drain and cool
  2. Grill the chicken
  3. Chop the onion, and mix with yogurt, vinegar, salt and pepper for a dressing
  4. Toss together the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes and bell pepper and top with dressing, and chicken or beans
Vegetable Enchiladas

bell peppers
black beans
enchilada sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Combine onion, chopped pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, beans, cheese and half the enchilada sauce
  3. Fill tortillas and roll up, topping with remaining sauce and a little cheese
  4. bake 15 minutes
Pasta with Broccoli Pesto

parmesan cheese
cottage cheese

  1. Puree broccoli and pistachios with parmesan in the food processor until smooth
  2. Add the cottage cheese and pulse until combined
  3. Cook pasta
  4. Top pasta with pesto and garnish with salt, pepper, parmesan and olive oil
Steak and mashed potatoes

green beans
  1. marinate and grill steak and tofu
  2. peel and boil potatoes until tender, add milk and butter and mash to desired consistency
  3. steam green beans until tender
  4. season and serve
Roasted veggies and Potatoes

Red potatoes
brussels sprouts
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Toss veggies, potatoes and olive oil, coating evenly
  3. Sprinkle with oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, salt and pepper
  4. roast for 35 - 40 minutes

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The REAL All-Purpose Cleaner

Ok, it's been a while. I don't have a good excuse.

Today I feel the need to tell you about my new favorite find. It's called SAL SUDS and it's made by Dr. Bronner's - the wonderful people who make my favorite gentle, biodegradable, vegetable based soaps. More about them later.

Sal Suds is a vegetable based hard surface cleaner with a high pH so it will clean just about anything. I've been using a pleasant-smelling "environmentally friendly" household cleaner for a few years for the counters and the floor but that's where it stops. I'm still searching for cleaners for the bathroom, laundry, dishes, what-have-you and biodegradable products are expensive - if you can even find them!

I was running low on dishwasher detergent and started looking up recipes to make some. We have hard water which creates a problem for dishes and laundry all on it's own. In searching for laundry and dish soap I kept seeing recipes that called for castile soap. While I love the versatility of castile soap for washing, it seemed to leave a film or residue when used on the counters so I wouldn't dream of putting it in a washing machine or dish washer!

Then I find Sal Suds. Made with a similar process and equally biodegradable, it breaks down hard water and leaves no residue. It claims to clean virtually any hard surface as well as dishes and laundry so I was intrigued. I found a 32 oz bottle at my local health food store and decided to give it a whirl.

One thing I like about Dr. Bronner's is that they disclose all the ingredients and their uses. It does contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which I try to avoid, but it is quickly biodegradable and doesn't come into direct contact with skin so I'm okay with it. It also contains other vegetable derived surfactants along with fir needle oil and spruce oil which sounds like pine-sol but it really has very little scent to it whatsoever. It contains no preservatives or dyes, is made in the U.S.A. and is not tested on animals.

First attempt was in the dishwasher. It recommended 1.5 tsp for a sink of dishes. I dolloped in a little over a tsp into the dishwasher and filled the rest of the detergent compartment with distilled white vinegar. We'd been using vinegar as a rinse aid for a while now and it works as well as the commercial stuff. I have to admit I was a little worried that when I turned the washer on my kitchen would be a sea of bubbles but that wasn't the case. In fact, the dishes looked great! I was sold on this point alone since nothing so far has gotten rid of the hard water marks on our glasses.

Second attempt was the washing machine. It recommended a 1/4 cup per load but I used about half that. Again, I turned on the machine expecting a bubbly explosion. The clothes came out as clean as they do with regular detergent. I even rubbed a little directly on some waterproof makeup smudges on my pillowcase before washing and they came out with no problem! The only thing it did not clean completely were some old stains on a cleaning rag - but that didn't bother me. I was really impressed because I wash as much as I can in cold water and the soap still worked.

Eucalyptus 100% Pure essential Oil -30mlNext attempt was the shower. I filled a bottle with half water, half white vinegar, some eucalyptus oil, and a small squirt of Sal Suds. That concoction made my tile sparkle!! The eucalyptus oil works as a disinfectant and helps cover the vinegar smell, which disappears when the vinegar dries anyway.

Then I filled a bucket with water and added a small squirt of Sal Suds to mop my floor. The key term is a small squirt because many reviewers online explained that it creates a LOT of bubbles and too much soap may require an extra rinsing and lets face it - we want to clean the floors as quickly and effortlessly as possible. It actually worked! By this point I'm not sure why I was surprised but I was. It cleaned well and dried with a good "clean floor" finish... not too shiny but not dull.

Now, I usually just clean my windows with a vinegar/water solution but what the heck; after the tile in the bathrooms I went out on a whim and sprayed some on the mirrors. After wiping with a microfiber cloth they were clean and streak free! I cleaned all my windows with the solution and it really got the pollen off my sliding glass door on the porch. 

I'm am convinced Sal Suds really will clean anything. It is not recommended for hand or body washing so I'll stick to regular castile soap for that. If anyone finds more uses for Sal Suds I'd love to hear them!