Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Men and Cars . . .

What is it about a movie about cars that brings together all the generations?

Stand up for healthy food

OK, so I know it's a little cheesy to promote a television show/petition online, but I really find this an exciting movement, cheesy and star-studded though it may be.  Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution show is going to approach Congress about increasing funding for school lunches so that we can afford to provide children with fresh foods (they cost a lot more than processed atrocities).  Anyway, they want to take 1,000,000 signatures with them when they go.  It only takes a minute to sign online, and in my humble opinion, it's a worthy cause:

Sign the petition Jamie's Food Revolution USA Jamie Oliver

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Granola Recipe . . . per request

Homemade Granola

(a recipe from Sarah)

I'm giving you the recipe for using 8 c of oats--otherwise my family goes through it too fast to make it worth the trouble.  If you want less, halve or quarter ingredients.


8 c oats
2 c flax
1 t salt
4/3 c coconut
4/3 c nuts
1 c maple syrup (or honey)
3/4 c canola oil (I actually use olive oil or coconut oil/olive oil blend
1/8 c water
2 t cinnamin (or vanilla)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Warm the wet ingredients on the stovetop until they thin.  Pour over the dry ingredients and use hands to squish oats together.  Spread out on baking sheets (preferably with slight raised sides).  Put in oven for 30 minutes.  Take out and stir.  Add 4/3 c raisins or craisins or other dried fruit.  Bake 15 more min. until golden. (I've gotten too lazy and just add the dried fruit when it's done baking.)
Enjoy!  Hope you like it!

Val, Mommy, Gardener . . . Super Sleuth?

So after reading the book I described below, I have been highly attuned to chemical pollution around us.  And when I watched the show "Food Revolution with Jamie Oliver," I was curious to see the connections between the health problems of the residents there and similar health problems with residents described in Slow Death by Rubber Duck that were caused by scary pollutants in the water supplySo I researched online and found that this town is only two hours from the town described in the book, on the same river, and with its on branch of a Dupont plant in their area.  Coincidence?  Well, maybe, maybe not.  So I contacted the EWG (Environmental Working Group) about it and found someone really interested in my surmise who said she was going to look into it.  Super Sleuth strikes again!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review of "Slow Death by Rubber Duck"

For those interested (even in a looking-through-fingers-covering-your-eyes kind of way) in avoiding some of the most harmful chemicals in household products all around us, this is a must read.  It isn't, however, a good book to read right before going to sleep at night.  I found it distinctly unhelpful for that purpose, because I'd lie awake in bed and think about the alarming statistics or historical account of the industry's development of products and their impact on the environment.

Since most people probably won't go running to the book store (or library, if you're cheap like me) to find out all about scary chemicals in products, I thought I'd summarize some of the most useful info from the book.  Initially I wrote seven, but had to come back and make it an even fourteen:

1.  If you want to check the possible health risks in personal care products (toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, gel, sunscreen, shampoo, etc.), a very thorough analysis of products is available at Environmental Working Group's website:

You click on their "skin deep" cosmetic resource in the bottom right corner, and then there's a task bar where you enter a product name and they give you an overall rating with an explanation of why and an analysis of the safety of each ingredient.  It's really helpful, I've found.

Castille soap works great as a body wash and as a shampoo, if you are interested in a cost-effective safe alternative to either of those products.  Shea butter is a great moisturizer.  And Purple Prairie makes an affordable sunscreen called "Purple Prairie Sun Stuff" that was the best product for the best price I could find after a lot of time (about 4 hours) on the EWG website and searches from sellers.  You can get it from them directly and get free shipping if you spend $40 (which isn't hard if you find someone(s) who want to go in and get a bottle, too) at the following web address:


2. Get chunk light instead of white tuna.  It's made from smaller fish and has way less mercury.

3.  Buy close fitting 100% cotton pjs--all the others, by law, are sprayed with hormone-distrupting flame retardants.

4.  Remember this rhyme to help avoid scary plastics:
"4, 5, 1, 2, all the rest are bad for you."
And don't buy tomato products in cans.  All cans, but especially tomatoes (to combat the acidity), are lined with BPA that leaches out into the product.  Never microwave plastic containers.

5.  Replace your BPA vinyl shower curtain with a recycled polyester one.

6.  Avoid nanoparticles (nano-silver, etc.) and triclosan as ingredients or anti-bacterial products (the only safe antibacterial products are alcohol-based).

7.  Switch from teflon anything to cast-iron or stainless-steel (teflon is a big one to avoid).

8.  Use a stainless steel water bottle.

9.  Don't spray pesticides on your lawn. (Or use an environmentally friendly company.)

10. Buy local and/or organic.

11. Use reusable bags for shopping.

12.  Buy electronics that are PBDE free.

13.  Avoid too much fat (that's where your body stores chemicals and toxins--and where animals' bodies have stored theirs).

14. Buy fragrance-free products (fragrance is pthalates) and "rubber" children's toys (also pthalates).

I highly recommend the book, but thought some people might rather get a short summary, so here you go.  Really implementing any individual change involves becoming a label-reader.  But if you read what all these chemicals are doing to us and especially our children, there's plenty of motivation to do so.  It also compels us to join any kind of combined efforts to pressure government into passing bans on dangerous chemicals.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shea Butter, Anyone? For Hair Gel?

You can get it for a great price from: Empower Village

Supplier of wholesale 100% Shea Butter. For those of you using it for body cream or to make hair gel out of it! :)   It's really great stuff!

Owen and I made some hair gel today (based on the alarming info I read about in a book I will go into later, Slow Death by Rubber Ducky), containing shea, aloe, and a little olive oil.  It worked for Owen, I haven't tried it yet.  Here's the recipe:

Shea Hair Gel:

4 oz shea (100%, if possible)
2 oz aloe (I squeezed it out of our plants, actually)
2 T olive oil or coconut oil

(source: http://naturalhairrules.blogspot.com/2009/08/shealoe.html)

You heat up the shea on the stove in a double boiler.  Then add the other ingredients.  It is liquid at first but cools to a really cool semi-soft texture.  And you could use it for body lotion if you wanted, too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guess What Survived the Winter?

When all that snow melted a few weeks ago, I was amazed to see arugula and kale that looked like it might still be alive and edible.  Closer investigation of the garden this week revealed carrots that are still crunchy-- and with green tops that have evidence of fresh growth.  I was out of salad toppings and went out to see if I could find any carrots big enough to eat.  I came in with the ones above.  That's arugula to the left of those little orange beauties.  I was amazed to discover that the arugula is young and in great shape, too.  And there's way more of it out there than I thought.  I think some of the plants that were looking wet and spindly are now thriving after all the sunshine we've had lately.  Needless to say, we had an impressive salad (considering it included local ingredients this early in the year).  And today I picked a bunch more carrots.

My next big discovery was that my surviving kale plants were not only in better shape but greater in number than I had realized.  There are a few squashed plants and broken off ones that give the impression that the kale bed is not in great shape.  But once I space out all of the healthy little plants and it gets warmer, we should be in great shape.  I bought seedlings of kale last summer and 10 plants fed us up until winter started.  This year I am starting with 22 seedlings (though I'll give some away), and two or three of my plants from last year (the full-grown ones--the ones I didn't strip of all leaves to put in pasta sauce) are still alive.  So it should be a kaleful summer. 

These pictures show some new growth on last year's marjoram and savory herb plants.

I had no idea some of these things could live through the winter.  Isn't it unbelievable to start spring with some stuff in the garden already??!
Plus, I did plant some peas and raab and lettuce.  Come on spring!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Red Beet Eggs: A Pennsylvania Dutch Treasure

In case anyone wants ideas of what to do with their leftover painted boiled eggs this Easter . . .
a Lancaster favorite is red beet eggs (some refer to these as "pickled eggs" but I think we can all see how red beet eggs is a more exciting name).  :)

Use local eggs if possible!

My mom's recipe is as follows:
Red Beet Eggs

15 oz can red beets (or one or two beets boiled in a small amount of water)
1/3-1/2 c apple cider vinegar
2-3 T sugar
onion slices
salt to taste (~ 1 tsp)
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 t whole cloves
~ 3 bay leaves

Heat the ingredients to dissolve the sugar.  You can dilute with a small amount of water to stretch the liquid.  Add 6-10 boiled peeled eggs and put in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.  They last for a while because the vinegar preserves them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Now I obviously have no idea if this is true, but today my mom's neighbor told her:

"It's the fifth warm day of March in a row, today's the day to plant peas."

My mom told me this news this evening.

Coincidentally, I had planted my first round of peas today.  The ground was moist but not mucky and it was lovely outside.  The weeds and rocks were less than lovely, but you'll have this. 

Since I really have no idea what I'm doing and just realized, "Oh dear!  Peas are supposed to go in early!" I'm really quite reassured to know that this was the day my mom's neighbor felt peas should be planted.  It's nice to happen to align with someone's schedule.

Here's hoping he knows what he's talking about!

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Fast Food"

So if you are ever having one of those nights when you just can't handle to make any cooking effort (like I had tonight) . . . here's a great one to try:

Polenta with Veggie/Tomato Topping

Veggie Topping Part:
Chop up kale or broccoli or something green into small pieces.
Chop up onion and/or garlic (if you're not pregnant and either sounds appealing).
Saute both.
Add several whole tomatoes (if in season), or a large can of diced, or a bag of frozen (if you are a late summer storage nut).
Add a can (or some cooked from dry that you have in the fridge) of any kind of light/white beans.
Add some shredded chicken (I like to keep some frozen in ice cubes after I boil a whole chicken) or tuna (opt.).
Add a little wine or broth if you like.
Salt and season to taste.
This part should really take 30 min. or less--real time, not cooking show time.

Polenta Part:
Slice up a Trader Joe's tube of polenta into thin slices (no more than 1/2" thick).
Fry first side (about 4 min.) until bottom is golden.
Flip, then put a little mozzarella type cheese on the top sides that are already fried.
Fry second side, cheese should melt somewhat.
This part should take real time 10 min.

Serve topping on the polenta.  Yum.