Friday, August 31, 2012

How this all got started...

So before I get too far ahead of myself in sharing the fabulous recipes and what not I have gathered and experimented with, I thought this next post should be dedicated to more of the "beginning" in my organic journey.  I mean, I have always been a health conscious person.  In high school I started having back/neck pain because of my scoliosis, and have been doing some sort of stretching/strengthening routine every morning ever since.  (This little issue introduced me to Physical Therapy, which directed my next steps to pursue my degree in the field.)  In college I tried my best to make healthier choices in what I ate - such as a fav snack of natural peanut butter with bananas.  When I got married, I needed to start considering the health of someone beside myself (Sidenote: OMG - how do some men survive without women!?  I swear my husband would live on Ramen Noodles, beer, and cereal if not for my preparation to get some fresh foods into his body!). 

And then last year, spring of 2011, I saw these two videos:  The Story of Stuff and The Story of Cosmetics, both produced by The Story of Stuff Project.  The Story of Stuff discusses the extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of products and how it all affects societies, economies, THE PLANET (!!!).  The Story of Cosmetics delves deeper into the specifics of what is put into personal care products.  I found this to be very interesting.  I didn't know about the thousands of synthetic chemicals that now exist...or that for the most part, we have no idea what the long term effects are on our health.  Some ingredients are carcinogenic, some are neurotoxins, some are reproductive toxins, some are immunotoxic, some are allergerns.  Yikes!  I also didn't know that the FDA does not regulate the cosmetics industry...they have their own "regulation committee" and compliance is voluntary.  Claims as to "natural" or "organic" on the label have no legal definition, and companies which produce personal care products don't even have to label all of their ingredients.  And while a "little bit" may be "ok", a "little bit" used several times a day, day in and day out, builds up in our bodies.  Even women's breast milk is contaminated (!!!). And I'm sorry, but that is NOT "ok" with me - no matter what those beautiful models on the magazine pages and TV commercials tell me.

I was shocked, as I was that girl who had 5 different scents of body wash in the shower - you know, so that I had a choice of scents to suit my mood.  And I have super dry skin; to remedy this I slather myself with lotion every day.  Plus the deodorant, the toothpaste, the mouthwash, the shaving cream, the shampoo & conditioner, the lipstick, the foundation, the mascara, the eye liner, the eye shadow, the perfume, the blush, the nail polish, the sunscreen, the face wash, the toner...I think you catch my drift.  I discovered through The Story of Stuff website this great site called the Cosmetic Database (aka Skin Deep) which is put together by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  This is a research based site which allows you to search either by ingredient, brand name, or type of product.  It gives you the run down on the safety rating of the product or ingredient (0-10, 0 being the safest).  They are very transparent about how much data they have to back up their ratings and provide links to the actual articles where they got their data.  So I feel that the site is pretty trustworthy.  They also have a "Guide to Safe Cosmetics" which they will send to you if you donate at least $5 or you can download and print here.  Or you can read about the main ingredients to avoid here.

Based on their list of ingredients to look out for, I began reading the labels on all my products...the verdict??  I kept ZERO of my products.  It was so sad!  My Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shiny shampoo - gone.  My Oil of Olay SPF face lotion - bye-bye.  And no more Bath & Body Works :-(.  Oh, and my Crabtree & Evelyn...sometimes I really do miss my LaSource hand cream; this was a more difficult item to surrender.  I also threw out my home fragrance oil thingys, you know, that you plug in and it makes your house smell amazing?  I found out that "fragrance" or "perfume" on an ingredient label is really a whole other list of ingredients - over 3,000 of them - that are bad for you.  I just couldn't bring myself to put all these things onto my body anymore.  And so I had to start searching for and trying alternatives...which will be a big focus of this blog, to share the options which I have found!  Because there are options.  And you know what else, I save so much money because I am not tempted to buy a million and one scented body washes!!  Yay!!

Of course my journey did not just stop with changing my personal care products.  It opened up a whole other slew of doors!  Like the food that I eat, the air I breathe, the paint/flooring/furniture in my home, the dishes and pans that I use in the kitchen, the clothes that I wear, the water I drink and bathe in...really, it can go on and on and on.  Which is where this can all get overwhelming and why I wanted to start writing this blog in order to share what I have been learning.  It's impossible to change everything at once.  And some changes are more expensive than others, and you can only do what you can do.  But I think we need to do those things that we can do, rather than be so overwhelmed that we take on an "all or nothing" mentality that causes us to "live by default" and just go along with what the industry says is "safe".  I've been building changes upon changes, little by little.  I feel good about those changes - it's good for me, it's good for my family, and it will be good for you and your family, too.  So go on, do what you can do - and feel good about it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My First Post!!!

I am so excited for my very first blog post!  I know many of my friends and family have heard rumors all summer about this blog, and it is finally becoming reality.  Now I will have a central place to be able to share with everyone the recipes I use, the resources that have guided me in the changes we have been making, and my reasoning behind these changes.  There is so much I can write about, it has been hard to decide what to put into my first post!  Should I start with my testimony?  Should I start with a food recipe?  Should I start with a book review?  Or my deodorant recipe?  Or a laundry recipe?  Or a product review????  Eventually it will all be in here, so I guess it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. 

So, I have decided to share with you a recipe I don’t even have to have written down: my newly revised banana muffins.  I pretty much make these every week for my husband to have for breakfast.  He won’t take the time to prepare himself a healthy breakfast and needs something quick and easy and on-the-go (now I can’t criticize, I am totally guilty of eating on the go!).  The original recipe came from my Mom, and I think before that came from a friend of hers…but I needed to make it a little more healthy to be able to call it a “breakfast” muffin. 

With no further ado, I give you Organic Banana Walnut Breakfast Muffins!  These muffins are moist and delicious, with not too much sugar, some whole grains, and a little bit of protein…a great way to start the day and get you through to lunchtime!

  • 3 ripe organic bananas
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water, allow to sit a few minutes)
  • 1/3 cup organic applesauce
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • ¾ cup organic white  flour
  • ¾ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour (make sure it’s PASTRY flour!)
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking soda (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder (such as Rumford)
  • ½ tsp fine ground Himalayan salt
  • ¾ cup organic walnuts
  • ½-¾ cup organic unsweetened coconut

Prepare your flax egg to allow the ground flax to absorb the water.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 6-cup muffin pan lightly with canola or vegetable oil (I use the Kitchen Spritzer from Pampered Chef).  You can also use a 12-cup muffin pan, but increase the temperature to 375 degrees.

Mash the bananas in a mixer.  Add the flax egg, sugar, and applesauce; mix to combine. 

Combine dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, baking powder, & salt) in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until combined.  (OK, honesty moment…I never mix my dry ingredients separately, I’m too lazy…and my muffins always turn out fine.  So, I leave it up to you if you want to take the extra step).

Chop walnuts (the easiest way ever is using the Food Chopper from Pampered Chef).  Stir in the walnuts and coconut.   Pour evenly into prepared muffin pan.  Bake 32-35 minutes for larger 6-cup muffins at 325 degrees or 20 minutes for regular 12-cup muffins at 375 degrees.  Cool for a few minutes in the pan and then transfer to a Cooling Rack to finish cooling.  Store in an air-tight container; I recommend also keeping these in the fridge if they are not eaten with in 3-4 days.

Variations:  The recipe as written is vegan.  If you prefer, you can use a real egg instead of the flax egg.  You can also use just all-purpose flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour.  You can also add chocolate chips instead of the coconut, but keep in mind you are increasing the sugar content.

ENJOY!  I hope that you love these muffins and that you continue to follow my blog!  Yay!