Thursday, September 30, 2010

Know your ingredients #6

Water, corn syrup, cultured lowfat buttermilk, vinegar, garlic juice, cellulose gel, sugar, salt, skim milk, sour cream (dried), onion (dried), xanthan gum, malto-dextrin, monosodium glutamate with potassium sorbate and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, lactic acid, natural flavor, propylene glycol alginate, cultured skim milk (dried), artificial color, phosphoric acid, lemon juice concentrate, green onion (dried), spice, DI-alpha-tocopherol acetate (Vitamin E)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Produce PLU stickers

Do you ever get tired of peeling off those pesky stickers on produce while you wash it? Paying attention to the code can actually benefit your health.

Conventional produce: 4-digit number

Organic produce: 5-digit number starting with 9
Photo credit
Genetically modified: 5-digit number starting with 8


4139: Conventional Granny Smith apple

94139: Organic Granny Smith apple

84139: GMO Granny Smith apple

You probably won’t ever see anything labeled as GMO because it’s optional. However, corn, soybeans, papaya, and squash are more likely to be GMO. It’s estimated that 60-70% of food items sold contain GMO ingredients. Don’t you find it interesting that the companies producing GMO foods do not have labeling restrictions but organic producers must follow strict rules to be able to label their produce as organic.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Safe Plastics

With all of the news about bisphosphenol-A (BPA) and the dangers of plastics, do you wonder which ones are ok anymore? We do try to avoid plastic if possible, but it’s just not realistic all of the time. Here are some guidelines to help us all become a little less confused:

1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)

Used to make soft drink, water, sports drink, ketchup and salad dressing bottles, and peanut butter, jelly and jam jars

GOOD: Not known to leach chemicals suspected of causing cancer or hormone disruptors

2 High density polyethylene (HDPE)

Milk, water and juice bottles, yogurt and butter bus, cereal box liners and grocery, trash, and retail bags.

GOOD: Not known to leach chemical suspected of causing cancer or hormone disruptors

3 Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)

Most cling-wrapped meats, cheeses, and other deli foods

BAD: Manufacturers add “plasticizers” during production to soften into its flexible form. Traces of these chemical can leach out when they come into contact with foods. According to the NIH, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is commonly found in PVC and is a suspected carcinogen

4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

Some bread and frozen food bags and squeezable bottles

OK: Not known to leach chemicals but not as widely recyclable as #1 or #2

5 Polopropylene (PP)

Some ketchup bottles and yogurt and margarine tubs

OK: Hazardous during production but not know to leach chemicals. Not as widely recyclable.

6 Polystyrene (PS)

Foam insulation and also for hard applications (cups, toys)
BAD: Benzene used in production is a known human carcinogen. Butadiene and styrene are basic building blocks of the plastic and suspected carcinogens. Energy intensive. Poor recycling.

7 Other (usually polycarbonate)

BAD: Made with biphenyl-A, a chemical made in the 1930s in search for synthetic estrogens. It is a hormone disruptor, and it stimulates the action of estrogen when tested in human breast cancer studies. Can leach into food as a product ages.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kale chips

Kai actually thinks he is getting a big treat when I make kale chips. He loves them!! (And, I love that he loves them). I am all about simple recipes. Usually I have to keep eyes on Kai at all times and hold a clingy baby until Lee gets home to help so this recipe is perfect for only having a few minutes. Three ingredients!

Several stalks of kale

Olive oil


Wash, tear the kale. Put it in a large mixing bowl and drizzle olive oil over it. Sprinkle salt over it and mix until the kale is well coated. Pour loosely on a cookie sheet and spread it out (or else it will just steam). Bake at 375 for 16-18 minutes

1 cup of kale has Vitamin A 206% RDA, Vitamin C 134% RDA, Calcium 9% RDA, and Iron 6% RDA..

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do you touch your face?

In Jordan Rubin’s GPRx book he talks about how often we touch our face and rub our eyes with dirty hands. I never really thought about it, until I started paying attention to it while reading his book. Oh my goodness! I was constantly touch my face, rubbing my eye, scratching my cheek, pinching my chin, resting my face on my hand.

Studies have even suggested that people with acne prone skin often touch their skin too much, which causes breakouts. According to another study, some people touch their face up to 16 times per hour (ranged from 3-104 over 3 hours). Rhinovirus (the common cold) can easily be passed from hands to face. Flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for 24-48 hours and soft surfaces for 8-12 hours. If you have to touch your face, use the back of your hand which has significantly less bacteria

Monday, September 20, 2010

Product Review: Seventh Generation Dish Liquid

I have been trying different dishsoaps to find one that has all natural ingredients without phosphates or any other harsh cleaners. Seventh Generation was the easiest one for me to find. It is non-toxic and biodegradable, hypo-allergenic, free of phosphates, not tested on animals, safe for septic systems, Kosher-certified, and the bottle contains 90% post-consumer recycled plastic. They promise to list all of their chmicals as well as explain them.

The ingredients for the Lavender Floral & Mint are: Aqua (water), sodium lauryl sulfate, lauramine oxide, decyl glucoside and lauryl polyglucose (plant-derived cleaning agents), 1,3 –propanediol (plant-derived foam stabilizer), citric acid (cornstarch-derived water softener), sodium chloride (thickener), magnesium chloride (cleaning enhancer), essential oils and botanical extracts (citrus aurantifolia (lime), lavedula angustifolia (lavender), menthe spicata (spearmint), metha piperita (peppermint), canaga odorata (ylang ylang)), 2-Methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one & 1,2-Benzisothiazolin-3-one (MIT/BIT) (preservatives).

Whew. My fingers are cramping from typing all of that. For being non-toxic I certainly can’t pronounce or recognize most of the ingredients. We actually use the free & clear version mostly. The lavender mint is an odd smell so I prefer the unscented. The biggest change I noticed from conventional dish liquid is that it doesn’t always “cut” through the grease, which may be a good thing I guess. I like that it’s not petroleum based or phosphate containing (shown to be harmful and cause reproductive disorders in wildlife in streams). However, sometimes dishes still feel slightly oily or slick. There usually isn’t any food residue or smell, but the soap doesn’t always leave the dishes squeaky. I also don’t like that it contains SLS. I have one other brand that I am going to try that I have heard good things about. Ironically, we recently got a deal on Seventh Generation for $0.50!! Let’s say that it works well enough to use it up for that price!

Efficiency: 7—Sometimes a thin layer of oil stays on the dishes. Most noticeable on plastics. They are not greasy but just a little slippery.

Cost: 9—Not much difference in price compared to old Palmolive. Seventh Generation is good about providing coupons and sales are common.

Green factor: 6—Strange ingredients and Seventh Generation feels the need to explain them. SLS is a known ingredient to avoid if possible. Contains preservatives. The Skin Deep Cosmetic Database ranks most of the ingredients between 3-5.

Overall: 7—Works good enough for now but I would like to find a product that doesn’t leave a film on certain dishes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Know your ingredients #5

Soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, water, pickle relish, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, dehydrated egg yolk, algin derivative and xanthan gum (for consistency), mustard flour, natural flavors, dehydrated onion, spice, calcium disodium EDTA (to preserve freshness)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homemade toothpaste

I am still loving my homemade deodorant. The only hitch is that there is a fine line on our thermostat. The coconut oil becomes completely liquid if we change the thermostat by more than a degree. All of the arrowroot powder and cornstarch settles to the bottom and it does not stay in suspension. It definitely does not work as well if you have to try to mix it on the go each time. That is my only complaint. I love that it doesn’t physically block sweat production, which has a natural cleansing effect.

Before I ever switched to making my own deodorant, I had stopped using commercial toothpaste. My husband cringed! I have a history of horrible dental problems, and Lee was worried I’d be in extreme pain without my sensitive toothpaste. I did try Tom’s of Maine sensitive toothpaste. It was ok, but I hated the metal tube (I know, not very eco friendly of me to prefer a plastic tube). I also tried Kiss My Face aloe toothpaste (uck!!!). Since I wasn’t crazy about either I figured I’d try the old and true baking soda trick with a bit of coconut oil.

It is amazing!! I have zero sensitivity and my teeth feel so clean. I ran out at bedtime recently and forgot to make up another batch so I swiped some of my husbands Arm & Hammer “baking soda” toothpaste (I can almost visually see him cringing as I admit this). It tasted awful since I have gone almost 4 months without commercial toothpaste! The aftertaste was horrible and “artificial sweetener” tasting. Now toothpastes taste way too sweet and foamy to me.

I am so glad to be rid of commercial toothpaste. No more fluoride exposure. No more harmful or toxic chemicals in your mouth (that you can’t pronounce). Look at your tube of toothpaste. I bet it has sodium laurel sulfate (SLS—can be cell damaging), sodium laureth sulfate (known irritant), fluoride (may be linked to cancer, some scientists think it can actually be damaging to teeth, banned from water in many European countries), artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.

Here’s the recipe:

3 TBS baking soda

2 TBS coconut oil

15-20 drops of essential oil

(My favorite combo so far is 15 drops wintergreen, 5 drops peppermint)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Detergent update

I am slightly disappointed to say that I have switched back to Tide for washing cloth diapers. Rockin Green worked GREAT!!! for a few months. Then we started having ammonia issues, and the diapers have always had residual stains. At first I was obsessed with getting the stains out, which really wasn’t too hard. The sun has amazing cleaning powers. Just a couple of hours drying in the sun and stains are gone! However, the ammonia was started to become a problem. Sometimes Caitlin would get a rash from it. Those pictures of Tide and Rockin Green dissolved in water kept sticking in my head. The main reason Tide shouldn’t be used on cloth diapers is that it’s not a very clean rinsing detergent. It also has enzymes, whiteners, and optical brightners that can be irritating and can also cause buildup on the diapers. Once there is buildup, the diapers have to be stripped (thoroughly cleaned in hot water or dawn). Buildup causes repelling (not absorbing), stink issues, and can be irritating.

Needless to say, I knew we needed to change detergents. Supposedly that is not uncommon to have to switch things up for a lot of detergents. I started seeing more and more cloth diaper fanatics raving about Tide. I read stories of people who had used Tide from the get go and never had any problems. I don’t remember reading anything at all about it causing irritation; only one or two stories of people that had a little buildup over time. Well, I took the plunge and sheepishly admitted to Lee that I was going to try Tide on the cloth diapers. I have still smelled ammonia coming from a few diapers but not EVERY diaper. The most amazing thing is that stains were GONE!! I washed 6 stained diapers, and only 1 had to be line dried. Previously I would have had to line dry at least 4 of the 6.

Ironically, I’ve been using up the Rockin Green on our regular laundry. I still love that it is a clean rinsing detergent. I have read some amazing stories of it getting sweat stains and grease stains out. I have seen pictures of people soaking laundry in it and it pulling all sorts of gunk out. I just don’t think it got the diapers totally clean. It was very effective at first but somewhere it just fizzled. I don’t know if I’ll keep using Tide or try to find a more natural detergent. So far no rashes, no stains, very little ammonia. I am not sure if this is two steps forward, one babystep back, but as long as Caitlin has clean diapers and a soft bottom I am happy

Friday, September 10, 2010

Homemade butter

Do you know how good butter is for you?? It is sooooo much better for you than the low-fat, hydrolyzed, “smart” margarine versions out there. It is a “good fat” NOT a bad fat. It is fats, vitamins, and minerals. Butter is necessary for adrenal and thyroid health. It is beneficial for fungal infections, especially candidiasis. It is also said to possess anti tumor and anti cancer properties. It is beneficial for fighting tooth decay and to promote muscle growth. Butter contains less amounts of lactose so if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to easily consume it. It is proposed that the lecithin in butter is essential for cholesterol metabolism. It contains conjugated linoleic acid, which promotes immunity. It can prevent calcification of the joints and also help the body in absorption of minerals.

Butter contains arachinoic acid, vital for the brain and cell function. It could possibly even be beneficial in preventing GI infections in children. It is rich in vitamin A and D, essential for calcium absorption. Butter contains lots of antioxidants and lecithin, which aids in cholesterol metabolism. The surge of heart disease in the second half of the twentieth century affected butter consumption. A huge increase in the consumption of refined sugar and starch also occurred around the same time as increased incidence of heart disease.

Making your own butter isn’t necessarily a huge cost savings, but the best part is that you know exactly what goes into it. It takes 1-2 ingredients. That’s it! The only thing you need is heavy (organic) cream…real cream. Not half/half or highly pasteurized whipping cream. The kind I use is 40% heavy cream from a local dairy. The only other ingredient is optional…a nice pinch of salt (sea salt…not refined, iodinated). Some people use a mixer but make sure you have a cover or at least saran wrap over the bowl. I use a quart sized mason jar and pour slightly less than a pint of cream in. You can use a pint but the more room you leave the quicker it goes to butter. If I use the whole pint I have to beg Lee to help. It’s best to use it at room temperature. All you do is shake, and shake, and shake some more. It has taken me anywhere from 5 minutes to what seemed like 20 minutes. Sometimes I’ll shake it for a few minutes, check my email, shake some more. Once it turns to whip cream, I usually ask Lee to shake it for a minute or two. The hardest part is getting the “butter milk” to come out. Once you do it you’ll understand exactly what I mean. It usually feels like you can’t even get the cream to move, and then all of a sudden, the butter and milk separate. Then you’ll start to hear the butter clinking around. At that point I pour the contents into a metal or glass bowl (wait until you have a nice, glob of butter formed). I take a wooden spatula and squish/press the butter to get the rest of the liquid out. Pour all of the liquid off. Keep pressing the butter, then run a little bit of cold water over it to rinse the butter. If you skip this step the remaining milk will cause the butter to go rancid in a few days. Once you’ve rinsed it several times and pressed all of the liquid out, pat it with a towel, and put it in a container. I’ve used glass, plastic, and wax paper. Then make some toast!!

Natural cleaning recipes

What do baking soda, lemon, and vinegar have in common? They are all effective, natural, $cheap$ cleaning ingredients. These common household items work just as well as most of the expensive, noxious cleaning agents on the market…without the health risk and hazard of unnecessary and harmful chemicals.

Baking soda is a non-abrasive cleaner that can be used as a deodorizer, softener, scouring agent, laundry additive. Lemon juice neutralizes hard water deposits, dissolves buildup, and removes tarnish. Vinegar cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, and stains.

All Purpose Surface Cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar and salt. Scrub surfaces with a natural cleaning cloth.

All-Purpose Cleaner #2: 2 TBS borax, ¼ cup lemon juice, and 2 cups hot water.

Furniture Polish: Mix 1 cup lemon juice with 1 TBS olive oil and 1 TBS water; lightly apply to furniture using a soft cloth. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then buff.

Glass Cleaner: Combine ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 TBS cornstarch, and 1 qt warm water. Wipe dry with a sheet of crumpled newspaper or a coffee filter.

Tile and Grout Paste: 1 cup water and 3 cups baking soda mixed into a paste. Use a toothbrush to scrub the paste into the grout.

Mold and mildew: 2 tsp tea tree oil and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle.

Mold #2: Mix one part 3% hydrogen peroxide and two parts water in a spray bottle.

Chopping block cleaner: Rub a slice of lemon across to disinfect the surface.

Drain Cleaner: Pour ½ cup baking soda down drain, then ½ cup vinegar. After 15 minutes, pour boiling water to clear the residue. Do not use boiling water with plastic pipes. Do not use after trying a commercial drain opener.

Dishwasher Soap: Mix equal parts of borax and washing soda.

Laundry Detergent: Mix 1 cup Ivory soap (or Fels Naptha soap), ½ cup washing soda, and ½ cup borax. Use 1-2 TBS.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse.

I could take 5 pages to list all of the possible natural cleaning recipes. If these don’t work for you or if you want more just Google natural cleaning recipes. I found 2 pages of just recipes for vinegar alone. I have found that vinegar and baking soda are really all that I need. I still use a commercial natural dish soap, dish detergent, and laundry detergent. There are so many options available to get rid of all of your commercial products, though. Forget worrying about harmful cleaners. These really do work!

Photo credit