Wednesday, July 27, 2011


There is yet another reason not to use antibacterial products (other than those outlined here), and its name is Triclosan. Triclosan is a antibacterial and antifungal agent that has been used in the US since 1972 in toothpastes, deodorants, soaps and shaving creams. The physical makeup of the chemical acts as a functional group to both ethers and phenols (which in trials have shown antibacterial properties). However, the products in among some 300 others chemicals currently being closely examined by the EPA currently and it looks as though it will be banned in the US shortly.

Studies have shown that the chemical is mildly effective in toothpastes to fight gingivitis, but very ineffective in other products. But that apparently didn’t stop companies from adding the chemical into their products to give boasting rights that their (insert bathroom product) contained bacteria fighting agents…never mind they didn’t actually work. Aside from the relatively needless inclusion of this chemical, it’s actually quite dangerous.

Aside from the allergic reactions from quite a few children country wide over the last decade or so. The chemical is proving to be a significant endocrine disrupter (causing thyroid problems), and fairly carcinogenic (via uncontrolled cellular growth). Plus recent studies have shown the chemical has been linked to birth defects. A web site maintained by a Dr. Ben Kim has a list of products that have in the past contained Triclosan, and although many dental care products have claimed to remove the chemical, it still good to do your homework and check things out yourself before buying.  So while many companies are voluntarily revamping their products and the EPA carries on its research, one company has yet to respond to the issue. Bath and Body works, though seemingly very aware of the major health concerns of Triclosan continues to push antibacterial soaps, lotions and gels that contain chemical with no sign of letting up. Food and Water watch an organization designed to alert folks of such health concerns has drafted up a letter form that you can simply sign and send off to show your concern and support for this issue.

Be sure to check personal and home cleaning products for Triclosan and avoid using them at all cost. If you don’t feel up to keeping up with organizations like Food and Water Watch for health concerns, feel free to check back here any time I will keep updating as I get news about dangerous products.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Brief History with Vegetables

Like most children vegetables weren’t exactly my favorite food growing up. I spent the majority of my adolescent years on a boat in a remote part of Alaska. The “town” if you could call it that was Alitak, a small fishing cannery on the south end of Kodiak Island in a bay that faced the Bering Sea. In the summer the place was booming, lots of fishermen, cannery workers and families. When I say booming though I should mention again this was a cannery, there was no movie theaters or bars or restaurants. There was an office where you could buy stamps and send mail, there was a store where you could buy canned goods, frozen food and on the off chance that the weather was good enough for the planes to fly you might find a wilted head of lettuce that could be procured for an astronomical price. In the winter the cannery was shut down, and a single family was hired to wait out the winter and make sure the place didn’t fall into the ground during the off season.

To say fresh fruits and vegetables were scarce during these times is an understatement. And much to my chagrin the vegetables that graced my plate were either canned or frozen.  It only took so many meals of slurming down canned green beans to realize that I didn’t like vegetables and quickly decided the only tomatoes that were ever going to enter my body would be those on the pizza crust hiding under a pile of cheese.

It took a lot of years to change my mind, there was the hideous creamed cauliflower incident of thanksgiving thanks in part to a potatoe allergy that runs rampant in my biological fathers side of the family. The salad bar hiccup in my college cafeteria that served watery colorless tomatoes and slimy mushrooms. And then one year for no reason I started eating tomato soup and grilled sandwiches. The veggies that came as sides on date nights started to become really appealing, and I realized I don’t hate vegetables, I hate bad vegetables. At 23 years old, I finally started cooking fresh veggies as the main dish in my meals and I was loving every minute of it. Thinking back though, I don’t think I was being all that ridiculous about my vegg revulsion. Vegetables can be quite horrible if not cooked properly, and for the most part cooking shows, recipe books and restaurants teach us that veggies are a side dish, a must eat for a balanced diet. But they are very rarely highlighted as the shining star of a delicious meal that they really are.

The point here being don’t wait 23 years to try vegetarian dishes. The majority of the cultures in the world base their meals around vegetables, as long as you have sunlight, soil and water (and seeds obviously) a person can create food. And given the long history these cultures have with their veggies, the meals are normally quite brilliant. Last night I made a traditional Shankshouka which is a dish that originated from the Maghreb of Tunisian origins. It is mostly a dish of stewed tomatoes and spices with eggs poached into it, served with a bread of some sort. Shankshouka is now a staple of Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Algerian, and Moroccan diets but is also fast becoming more popular in Israel.  Because of its long history and varied cultural eaters there are many varieties. The recipe I used was from my favorite food mecca a site you should exlpore in great revered detail Smitten Kitchen. The site owner Deb is pretty much my idol and she makes food look like art. 

 Though because I am incapable of ever following a recipe exactly (and a recent run in with some overly hot jalapenos) I made a few personal adjustments. Deb's recepie can be found here.


Olive oil
3 Anaheim Chilies (very mild, for extra heat try jalapenos or seranos)
2 Shallots
1 Garlic ( I love garlic and used the whole bulb but it’s not necessary)
1 table spoon paprika
1 teaspoon taco seasoning (I ran out of cumin)
1 28-ounce can of mashed tomatoes
2 Romano tomatoes
6 eggs
Feta cheese
Green onions
Bread (I used a French garlic bread, because the store was out of pita)

Heat oil in a soup pot, add chopped shallots, peppers and tomatoes. Heat for 5 minutes add ½ cup water and let the veggies cook down some, adding water as needed. Once veggies have cooked down to an appropriate “chunk size” (it’s a personal preference, I don’t like big chunks), add the garlic and canned tomatoes. Let simmer for 5 minutes, then add  spices. Let cook about 15 minutes stirring frequently to keep from sticking. Once the sauce is on the verge of a light boil crack eggs into sauce and let cook. Be careful not to break yokes, but you will have to do some light stirring to keep the whole thing from cooking to the pan as the sauce should be quite thick by now. Once the eggs are poached to your liking, serve with sprinkled green onions and feta cheese. The side of bread with help you scoop up all the amazing tomato sauce. Enjoy!

*And yes I realize Shankshouka is spelled different ways in this post as is it spelled many different ways depending on which culture the particular recepie was pulled from.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Have you ever had a week where you get to the end of it and cannot for the life of you think of one good thing about it? Depressing isn’t it. I recently went through, not a week, but a literally long and sh*tty weekend (my dog was sick). I found myself taking each little hiccup in stride. Deep breaths helped me focus on individuals problems I needed to tackle, clean up the car, make the back yard safe, locate what might have made her sick, clean her up, make sure she got plenty of water, monitor how long and how much she was keeping down, follower her around and clean up whatever she got sick on. I got to the end of it, car cleaned, dog well again, house vomit and other nasty things free….and promptly burst into tears.

 I, like many woman I know, am an after fact freaker-outer. So the problem gets solved but look out recovery period! I often feel very down and slightly comatose after ordeals like this. Whether in the throes of whirl wind attack mode or the downward spiral of my emotional recovery, I often find myself repeating the mantra “nothing lasts forever, nothing lasts forever”. But I realized over this weekend, that this mantra is mildly depressing, and it has a slight negative connotation. Sure it helps you deal with the really really bad stuff, but it doesn’t really make you sit up and realize when really good things are happening in your life.

In college some friends and I used to get together during finals week and play a little game of “name three good things about today”, or even more fun, “name one thing you like about yourself and each person in the room”. Both are pretty silly, but it’s amazing what being reminded of good things can do for your moral. It is often a lot easier to take problems in stride when you can remember all the little wonderful things that make life worth living, though admittedly this can be pretty impossible when you are in the thick of things. Being able to calm yourself during emotional and stressful times also does wonder for you health (naturally there was a health message somewhere in here). Being able to keep calm, helps keep your blood pressure low, which keeps your heart at an even pace which in turn keeps your endocrine and adrenal systems at a normal level. Keeping these systems in check have huge overreaching health effects, all the way from superficial worries like aging to extremely important things like immunity.

I heard a French saying a while back “À la lumière de reflux de la mare”, I am not sure if this is an actual saying or something someone made up, I am not even sure if the grammar is correct. But I do know enough French to know it means “in light of ebbing tides”. And this saying I really like. Tides ebb and flow, rise and fall, they are constantly moving, though sometimes  imperceptibility  slow. Just like life, full of highs and lows. Our joys and hurdles are constantly changing so while tides are high look around you and enjoy the things that make you happy. Use these memories and hold on to them because when tides are low, you might need a whole-lotta happy to help pull yourself through it. And on the other hand these lows will help you really appreciate the highs. A cycle, just like ebbing tides.

So what makes you happy? Know what it is, embrace it and hold on. Life can be a rocky ride and the quality of life and the quality of your health will depend on how you live the journey.


Thats all for now. On vacation untill Monday! Have a great week. 

We Be Jammin

As you all may have guessed I have issues with a lot of processed foods. The issues itself stems from the fact that in order for foods to sustain a lengthy shelf life, they have to be chock-a-block full of preservatives. In some cases preservatives aren’t bad for you, but in most cases these preservatives are either large amounts of sugar, salt and often more dubious chemicals. Or the aforementioned items are added to make up for the lack of flavor that is innately a part of food stuffs that never really go bad.  

My first notice of this issue was canned tuna and the first time I had store bought. My mom home canned tuna growing up (I lost my third tooth on a home canned tuna sandwich), but I vividly remember one afternoon when we had eaten all home canned supplies so off the store we went. Mom even splurged and got the expensive dolphin safe, canned in water yada-yada-yada. I took one bite and vowed I would never eat it again. She still cans tuna to this day and grants me cases of it whenever I ask because I am yet brave enough to venture into pressure cooker canning at this point in my life. It is a lot of equipment and I have seen Breakfast At Tiffany’s enough times to fear my inevitable boiling tuna, water and glass explosion. But that’s just me, I’m clumsy and pressure cookers really don’t deserve the reservations I attach to them. They are really quite safe.

Currently (unless under the supervision of more experienced canners) I stick to hot water bath canning. Which is easy, required very little equipment and extremely safe as long as you stick to jams, and high acidity items like pickling. All you really need is a large soup pot, two pans (not Teflon lined), a bunch of hot pads, rags, and tongs. Well and jars, and whatever you are canning obviously.   

This past weekend I went berry picking with some lovely lady friends Julia and Kim. I stocked up on extremely cheap blue berries and raspberries and promptly went home to make some jams.  So here is my soap box argument for home canned jam. Preserved fruits were originally a safe and effective way to squirrel away fruits for the long vitamin c-less winter months. Yes there once was a time where you couldn’t just go to the grocery store and buy oranges year round by the bushel. And to avoid among other things, scurvy. Having a large supply of canned fruits helped keep you and your family happy and healthy all year long. Now a days, we have nearly an entire isle dedicated to jams and jellies but if you look at the ingredients you will find more sugar than fruit.

I eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and while many stores have peanut and almond grinders to make sugar free nut butters, most stores don’t carry sweetener free fruits preserves. So I started canning my own homemade jams. It’s fun and easy and relatively sugar free, if you follow the following instructions.

The first thing you need to do is get your hands on some Pomona’s Universal Pectin. If you don’t live near a health foods store you can buy it online. I use this pectin, despite it being more expensive than other types because the amount of sugar needed in astonishingly less, traditional pectin’s call for 5 cups of sugar for every 4 cups of berries. This pectin calls for ½-1 cup of sweetener (suggestion is to use honey) for every 4 cups of berries.

Once you have the pectin open up the box and check out the instructions, they are relatively straight forward. This will help you organize everything you  need as far as number of jars, amount of berries, and sweetener you will need before you get started. It also explains how to jam using the easy and user friendly method of hot water bath canning. Which requires the everyday kitchen equipment I listed above. Really between the web site and the instruction booklet that comes in the box you don’t need any more help to make wonderfully delicious and healthy fruits preserves. My only additional suggestions are as follows.

1.       Do not under any circumstance touch the hot jars, fruit or lids directly with your fingers. Its hurts more than you can imagine.

2.       When handling jars after sterilization do not let anything touch the rim of the jar. Also after filling jar with fruit and putting the lid on make sure to wipe down the rim with a hot clean/wet rag. Any oils on the rim will prevent the jar from sealing properly.

3.       After jars are filled and lids attached move them to a cooler part of the house to seal, they are more likely to seal with an more extreme temperature change, but don’t put them in the fridge or freezer because when glass cools too quickly it cracks and/or explodes.

4.       That’s all! Enjoy, good luck, you won’t be sorry you gave this a try.

{pictures all mine from last summers jamming}

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Fun Day: Berry Picking

Berry Picking

Forgive my mild shallowness, I may be green and concerned about food. But this design set stuff is REALLY fun. And life is……..well life. It is what you make of it. I have always been easily entertained and excited. When I was younger this used to bother me, but I have learned to embrace it. Because while it may feel childish (and shallow at times) being happy is being happy. Enjoying the simple things in life, makes the day to day worth living. It is good to be acutely aware of the problems our society and environment face. But in order to maintain a semblance of sanity these problems are better taken in stride. Battle your demons and cynicism. Stop and take a deep breath, go outside and look around. REALLY look around. Problems and chores may seem insurmountable but they are only as meaningful as you let them be.  Plus today is Friday and Friday is a day for fun.

This weekend I will be trekking out to Sauvie Island to frolic with a friend through the berry patches. Strawberries are almost over, but raspberries and marion berries are starting up. Which means jam time! I’ll be posting my simple sugar free jam process later next week. But in the mean time, here are the necessities to get back to nature without having too much of a run in with nature…if you know what I mean.

1. Sunglasses...always in the summer when outside.

2. Jean Jacket a two part necessity. First covering yourself in the sun is always important to avoid sun damage, but also when you are bush whacking a long sleeve jacket made from a heavy durable material will protect your skin from scrapes and pests like ticks or spiders.

3. I included a belt because I always inevitability wind up getting stuck brambles and a sturdy belt can be the difference between navigating the shrubs safely and standing in a berry patch sans skirt.

4. A good hefty straw woven bag is good to take in any produce procuring adventure. Food is heavy and especially if you are walking a long distance or a short distance through nature the likelihood of a lesser bag falling apart is not worth the gamble. There are some great woven baskets out there made by woman owed export companies in South America and Africa.

5. Light clothing with great coverage will, much like the jacket, protect your exposed legs from branches and bugs. If the underbrush ever becomes too thick and tripping looks likely you can always tuck the skirt up into your belt until things lighten up.

6. The earrings I just like. A Lot. Plus turquoise is a naturally occurring stone that is easy to procure. Doing so requires very little human or environmental cost.

7. Boots sort of speak for themselves. They are strong, they last forever, they protect your feet and ankles. They are also easy to remove so in the event of anything getting in them you don’t have to fuss with the laces just kick them off and shake out the rocks. Frye's are my all time favorite boots. The company has been around for centuries, they have good business practices and while some people may frown on the fact that they are real leather. Let’s face it, its sustainable, not made from oil and they literally last forever. I’d much rather buy one pair of leather boots that I will have for 15 years than a faux pair made from oil bi-products that last 4 months.

8. Socks are a must when wearing boots, they keep your feet from getting sweaty and blistery. Plus in the event of getting rocks in your boots, the socks will keep them from cutting your feet. These particular socks are not only awesome to look at they are made by my friend Carrie.

9. Sunscreen should be worn always, even in the winter. Alba has great organic products free of harmful chemicals, it is easy to find in most grocery stores and fairly inexpensive.

10. You should never leave home without a full glass or stainless steel water bottle. Hydration is extremely important. It helps your cells repair damage faster, helps your body regulate temperate, and keeps your mind sharp. In fact being properly hydrated does more to keep you alert than drinking caffeine. Stainless steel bottles are light though some are coated with BPA. Glass ones are BPA free, but I am clumsy so I did the work to find a chemical free steel bottle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In This our Modern World

The American history of food is a confusing series of laws instated to keep food prices low and production up. During times of need cheep substitutes were created. In times of fear, comfort foods were invented to lessen the worry of impending changes (Twinkies which were invented to put in fallout shelters).  In times of plenty products were invented to use the extras, such as instant cereal products when grain production was too high for several years. Today we have stores full of food products that have lost their meaning but stuck around, either out of nostalgia or just good businesses sense (for a profit not for the health of our food system). 

I am not saying that no good has come from our collective food history. We have much safer handling practices than we did 100 years ago. What I am saying is perhaps we should take a look at the food we eat and the things we do to make ourselves feel better. Pepto is a great medicine, its PH level is a base rather than an acid, so in the event of an upset stomach due to high acid production, taking it will balance out the PH in your stomach and the indigestion goes away (same with Tums). I have never taken it myself, eating a piece of bread or some plain yogurt usually fixes any stomach problem I may be experiencing. But I could see myself partaking if my usual remedies didn’t work. When I do get a stomach ache I always think about through what I have eaten that day to try to pinpoint what may have caused the upset. Something I don’t normally eat, something that may have been slightly over it safe to eat window, or something I ate a lot of are the usual suspects. Highly processed meats like hot dogs, and lunch meats tend to give me an upset stomach, so I rarely eat them.


 Imagine my surprise, then shock, then confusion, the surprise again when I saw this above photo. Pepto and Heinze co-hosting a hotdog celebration. Yes you will probably need the Pepto if you eat whatever Mr. Mariah Carry is cooking up there for you.  But if you know you are going to need to Pepto to eat the food, why eat it. And is advertising a product that gives you indigestion in conjunction with a product that then takes it away really really stupid, or positively brilliant. I have no answers. I am simply baffled and clearly my eating habits do not belong on this our modern world. Or maybe they do, and we all just need to work a little harder to edit the way we think about food.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Fun Day : Summer Essentials

Summer Must Haves


Well its Friday and the eve of a wonderfully long holiday weekend. To celebrate I thought I would put together a grouping of things that are essential to me for a healthy summer day (friends don’t judge this is merely a first attempt at a design set). 

1. Hats are necessary to keep extra sun off a most likely un-sun screened and probably very pale scalp.

2. Sun with UV lenses protect eyes from sun damage. Your eyes are an exposed organ & very sensitive, be good to them.

3. Good summer reading is always a must for me, this particular book is one of my favorites.

4. Canvas tote bags are tough enough to carry anything and if they get dirty just throw them in the wash.

5. A light airy organic cotton dress will keep shoulders free of sun damage but keep you cool.

6. Lavender is a natural bug repellent, having it around will ward off all sorts of pests safely.

7. A good SPF chap stick is important since you will likely be consuming large amounts of liquid and thus washing away sunscreen constantly. The Yes to Carrots is a great organic safe brand.

8. A good pair of walking shoes is essential, even more so if you are a biker (protect those toes). Tom's donates one pair to a child in need for every pair you buy.

9. Being on the go all day, especially in the summer, usually means you will feel the need to wash your hands or freshen up. Organic, compostable, hypo-allergenic body and face wipes will keep you clean without killing friendly bacteria or exposing you to harmful chemicals.

10. Witch Hazel is a go to cleanser. It cleans out pours much like and astringent but also leaves skin moisturized and protected from the sun.

Thats all for now ladies and gents. Just a few more hours of work and freedom! Happy Fourth of July all!