Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Easy Being Green: Ban the Triclosan!

“Antibacterial” sounds like a fabulous thing, I mean, who likes bacteria? 

We are always taught to wash our hands and sanitize everything. But alas, while in general bacteria is not good, some antibacterial items, are even worse. 

Alcohol based sanitizers and antibacterials (like Purell or alcohol wipes) are fine (in moderation) but many products contain Triclosan, also known as Microban, is an antibacterial associated with endocrine disruption, allergies, and is a possible carcinogen. It is also associated with bacterial resistance to antibacterials.

Triclosan is commonly found in:
  • Hand Soap  (I just noticed some Bath and Body Works soap my sister gave me contains it...) 
  • Dish Soap
  • Mouth Wash
  • Toothpaste
  • and many other “antibacterial” labeled items including cutting boards, garden houses, kitchen knives, and toys.

Soo what does that all mean? 

Endocrine Disruption: 
  • The endocrine system is the hormone system. When the endocrine system is disrupted it can lead to:
    • Reproduction problems/ Infertility 
    • Changes in sexual development (early puberty, malformation of the brain associated with sex) 
    • Impaired immune function 
    • Diabetes 
    • Cancer 
    • Weight problems/ obesity 
  • Most of these issues are heightened if the exposure is to a pregnant woman, or woman who will soon become pregnant, a fetus, or a child who is still developing.  However, more research is discovering that exposure to adults may also lead to some of these issues, namely diabetes and obesity. 

  • In relation to the endocrine disruption, especially during development, chemicals, such as triclosan can disrupt how cells and genes are formed. This can lead to cells that are more prone to cancer, and to a disturbance in the cell cycle - as in more proliferation (getting bigger), less differentiation (dividing) and less apoptosis (normal cell death) which can lead to the formation of a tumor. 
  • Secondly - triclosan can combine with free chlorine in water which can form dioxins, a known carcinogen. So, even if you aren't worried about your exposure, know that by using anti-bacterials that contain triclosan you are releasing triclosan into the general water supply to create dioxins. 
  • Studies show that children exposed to triclosan are more likely to develop allergies. How this occurs is still unclear. It may be related to over exposure of antibacterials in general effects that immune system, or it may be another mechanism that is currently unclear. 
  • Some people are also just allergic to triclosan itself. 
Bacteria Resistance: 
  • You've probably heard of bacteria resistance in some form or another. It is often cited as a reason to not overdo it with antibiotics. It can also occur when bacteria are exposed to an antibacterial agent (such as triclosan). The bacteria learn what it is up against, and it can start to change to become stronger and resistant to our antibacterials and medicines. This leads to 'super bacterial' that we have no means of defending ourselves against. 

Here is some dish soap that had been in our house when we moved in.  Ironically, we also have the same dish soap in the staff kitchen area in the hospital.

It contains the dreaded ingredient - clearly labeled! (Ok, it may not appear that clear in the picture, but I did the best I could... nonetheless, if you looked at the bottle you could read the active ingredients and it would tell you.) 

For my alternative to the toxic dish soap - I picked up Planet brand instead: 

It is Triclosan Free, 100% Biodegradable, hypoallergenic, not tested on animals and cleans pretty darn well!  Any other non-triclosan/ non-anti-bacterial product should help you out at least in regards to avoiding triclosan. 

Alternatives: Plain old soap and water work just as well as triclosan laced products. In regards to the other products such as cutting boards, utensils and toys, just wash them with soap and hot water. There is no real benefit to the antibacterial properties, especially when you consider the harmful consequences of triclosan exposure. 

So what to do: 
  • Avoid purchasing or using items labeled as antibacterial and containing triclosan. 
  • Use other safe ways of disinfecting. Wash your hands in hot water with soap for at least 30 seconds. 
  • Beware of items not labeled as 'antibacterial' that may still contain triclosan. Always read the labels! 

Wishing you a very green happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Easy Being Green: Choose Recycled

"Remember when you throw things away, there is no 'Away'."

There are some items that most of us are not willing to do away with or re-use... one item I think we can all agree with is toilet paper.  

Thankfully there are becoming more and more options for 100% recycled options such as Seventh Generation and  Marcals Small Steps   - you can usually get a good deal on this and they support some great causes. 

My favorite would have to be "Earth First" -- Mainly just because the rolls are bigger and you get  bit more for your money. They also do not bleach with chlorine- which is also a plus. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods also have their own brand name 100% recycled toilet paper which are also nice.. I just do not have any on hand to photograph. 

Now that "green" is becoming trendy there also tends to be a lot of "greenwashing" - or companies trying to make themselves sound more environmentally friendly than they actually are. In regards to toilet paper, Scott Natural  is my pet peeve of green washing. Despite many toilet paper, paper towels and tissues being made from 100% recycled material, Scotts is only made from 60% recycled material. Granted- many toilet papers are worst- and use 0% recycled materials-- but Scott's makes their packaging green in color and claims "Green done right." Thus, they are duping people into thinking they are doing the 'right' thing.  Again, 60% recycled if still better than nothing, so I suppose if it is the only option, sure, its better than getting regular 0% recycle toilet paper, but alas, I still recommend the other brands first. 

Choosing recycled can also be extended to paper towels and tissues and other paper products as well- but the ideal solution is to refuse.  Use reusable items whenever possible, such as washable clothes and towels or a hanky. I know, I know, handkerchiefs sound rather gross - but I've been using them for a year or so now, and they aren't so bad- just make sure to buy a few so you can throw them in the wash when they get icky.
  • Only print things when you NEED to.  Do your editing on the computer before printing. 
  • Print double sided when possible.
  • Choose recycled paper as well when possible.

  • Sign up for E-bills and email newsletters versus the hard copies. 
  • Contact companies that continue to send you junk mail and ask them to remove you from their mailing list. You can also do this through websites like this, but they can charge a fee. 

Until next time- best of luck being green :) 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

I've had some extra potatoes around and been craving potato soup, so I decided to try one out! I tried to make it some-what healthier, but this still isn't a super healthy recipe (considering the bacon and cream) feel free to substitute all skim milk or a lean turkey bacon. 

It does make a very filling and delicious soup. 

Baked Potato Soup:
  • 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced 
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • pinch salt or salt substitute 
  • ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 6 medium potatoes, baked  (I peeled half of them) 
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup fat free half and half
  • 1/8 cup hot sauce (I used Franks)  
  • Optional: extra bacon, shredded cheese, chives for topping 
  1. In a large pot (or crock pot) cook chopped bacon. Remove Bacon and save for later, leave bacon grease in pot. 
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook until tender. 
  3. Add basil, pepper, salt and flour.  
  4. Add in chicken broth slowly and bring to a boil. 
  5. Add in potatoes, milk, half and half, hot sauce, and bacon. Simmer, but do not boil. 
  6. Using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor puree as much of the soup as you would like. If you left the peels of the potatoes on, you probably want to blenderize those as much as possible. 

Serve with extra bacon, chives and cheese, if desired. 

Enjoy :) 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's not easy being green

As Kermit the Frog says, "It's not easy being green."

Speaking in terms of being environmentally friendly, it can also feel that way. 

When I was a senior in college my life plan involved: Graduating, getting a dietetic internship, becoming an RD, working for a bit, then going back for a Masters in Environmental Health and combining the sciences of nutrition and environmental health and science.... 
Things did not work out quite as smoothly as that and my plan had to undergo some edits, but I still try to remain abreast and involved in the environmental spectrum. 

Between taking a few environmental and public health classes, and reading books, such as "Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger to Everyday Things" by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, and "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry" by Stacy Malkan it can seem overwhelming how seemingly EVERYTHING around us is toxic. Furthermore, I realized how much regulations are lacking, and that the chemical industry controls the show. 

For a while, I became obsessive, trying to avoid toxins and to make less of an impact on the earth. Unfortunately, we do not currently live in a world that supports such actions. We are making improvements and options are out there, but you can drive yourself mad attempting to live a "green" lifestyle. There are, however, many little ways you can make changes to decrease your exposure to toxins and be more environmentally friendly. 

Just like any change, like diet and exercise, the most effective ways to change are by making small, manageable goals.  

Thus- I am going be writing a few posts suggesting some simple steps so that "It's not easy being green." Some of them may not apply to you, and some you may just decide you could never do. But just choosing one, or a couple options to start off can have a big impact. Maybe over time you can add in more green habits :)

Check back for the "It's Easy Being Green" series.

If you are looking for more information here are some great websites: : The Environmental Working Group does research on various toxins, and helps advise you on better options.  Practically Green: Is a large community touting essentially what I am saying here. It allows you to identify how green you are now, and what you may wish to consider changing in order to be more healthy.  Safe Cosmetics offers information on toxins found in common toiletries you likely douse yourself with daily, and better options available. Is a great collaboration between the Environmental Working Group and Safe cosmetics with a giant database of products with safety ratings. Offers information on health, the environment, and economy etc. This site features lots of great infographics.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pot Luck: Crockpot Mac and Cheese

In my last post I discussed the potluck we had. I was going to post the recipe I used for the mac and cheese there, but I felt that post was getting a bit long- so here it is! 

For the pot luck I made a crock-pot mac and cheese (inspired by Pinterest, shockingly). Below is the image that inspired me via A Whisk and A Prayer Blog

 As usual, her picture of the end product looked significantly better than mine did, but alas, it still tasted good! I did modify the recipe a bit using: 

·      3 cups skim milk
·      12 oz fat free condensed milk
·      ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened  
·      3 large eggs or ¾ cup egg substitute (I used Egg substitute since I had it opened)
·      ½ teaspoon salt substitute (I used Nu Salt because I keep getting complaints that my food is “bland” since I generally do not use salt. Feel free to omit or use regular salt. If you are cooking for anyone with a Kidney problem- do not use a salt substitute!)
·      Cayenne pepper
·      Smoked paprika
·      Ground black pepper

·      1 box (1 pound) cavatappi pasta  (any shape you like works – such as elbows, or shells. You can also do whole wheat if you wish- but I didn’t want to turn people off too much.)
o   I used un-cooked pasta – the original recipe said par-cooked (about 5 minutes) but it depends on how long you are going to cook it in the crockpot.

·      4 cups shredded cheese (2 cups Cheddar Jack, and 2 cups low fat Pizza blend cheese)
·      2 pounds (1 large bag) mixed frozen vegetables (I used peas, carrots, corn and green beans).
·      ½ cup fresh shaved parmesan cheese
·      ½ cup Italian style bread crumbs

1.     Turn on crock pot (Mine only has 4 settings, so I turned it onto the quickest setting- high for 4 hours of cooking). You may wish to spray with pam/ olive oil.
2.     Add milk, condensed milk, butter, eggs, spices, pasta, mixed cheese (not parmesan cheese) and vegetables.
3.     Let cook in crock pot, stirring occasionally.
4.     Once pasta is tender (about 2 hours), you can add in the bread crumbs and parm cheese if you want. I saved the parm cheese for on the side and added it to the individual dishes.

Note: this dish can be ready in about 2 hours. I wound up cooking it on low for about 6-8 hours due to when people actually wanted to eat after arriving. 

For best results: Serve with Franks. 

Even Ghreylin had some! And he usually will not try anything.

I would also like to say- writing this post made me think of my friend Amy's blog Mac & Cheese  & Peas Since, that is in fact, what I made :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pot Luck and Giant Jenga

This Saturday my sister and her dog, Snuggles the Pomapoo,  came to visit.

Jordan decided that we should ‘show her a good time’ and decided to throw a pot luck.  So we also invited his friend Bruce and John, their dog, James (a lab dachshund), and Jon and Meaghan, and a puppy she adopted for her mom for Christmas, Mondo (A Chihuahua dachshund). Pair that with our dog, and Jordan’s parents dog – and we essentially had a pot luck/ puppy play date.  

During the pot luck, we decided to break out the Giant Jenga I made the other day!

It was quite the hit. People stated “It is much more fun than a regular sized Jenga!” and asked if I was taking Christmas orders.

We played on teams of 2, taking turns to remove the blocks. Since we had so many dogs around we added in the rule that if a team members dog knocked over the tower, that team lost. 

Snuggles mostly just barked at the process.

But Leo got precariously close at times. We all held onto our dogs once the tower started getting really high! 

Ghreylin was pretty happy once all of the other dogs finally left. He is too used to having free reign of the house and not having to worry about dogs trying to eat him, since he and Leo get along quite well on their own. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giant Jenga

Precursor: Something that drives me insane about BlogSpot is that the formatting can be so weird (weird spacing that does not show up in the original version, changes in font etc). Today: for some reason the background of the writing is white and despite many attempts I cannot change it. So please ignore that issue... my apologies.

As promised: I am back with my full report of my Giant Jenga making. The beginning and inspiration behind the project can be seen here. 

Despite the fact that I cannot even remember the last time I played any game of Jenga, Pinterest  inspired me to want to create a larger version of the game (Possibly for a fun lawn game at the wedding, or just for general play time fun.) 

They do, in fact, sell giant Jenga sets (also known as the Tumbling Tower) but alas these sets are around $100- which seems rather excessive. Furthermore, there are plenty of tutorials available online of people who have successfully made their own giant Jenga's for a fraction of the cost. Thus, I decided since I am currently partially unemployed, I might as well use my time doing something productive - like making a Giant Jenga. (Note slight sarcasm.) 

As wikipedia informs us: "Jenga is played with 54 wooden blocks. Each block is three times as long as it is wide, and one fifth as thick as it is long." Online tutorial suggestions to just purchase 2x4s and cut them into 10.5 inch pieces. This will not get the exact dimensions of the original game, but frankly it sure beats having to make that many cuts. 

I purchased seven 8 foot 2x4s and had them cut them into 10.5 inch sections. I felt rather obnoxious having them cut all of those pieces for me, but they did it in about 5 or so minutes with their fancy saw and superior cutting skills, whereas I am sure it would have taken me about 12 hours to accomplish the same task with my little hand saw. 

Some of the wood is seen above.

Unfortunately, I discovered that having the guy at the shop cut the wood for me may have been convenient, but he did not do it very accurately and I wound up with quite a few pieces that were not the right size. 

Luckily, there were exactly 54 pieces that were the right length, though some of them were rather knotty or otherwise not the most ideal pieces. 

Next- I spent many hours sanding each of the pieces using my little Black and Decker Mouse sander. I tried to sand any fraying pieces of wood, and to round out the corners slightly. This felt like a painfully long task (though it was really only maybe 5 or 6 hours total). Other tutorials note sanding for over 12 hours! 

Note: if using a power sander be sure to wear a ventilator mask, protective eye wear and sand in a well ventilated area. I worked in the garage with the doors open. (I tried to take an awesome picture of myself in all of my safety gear but it appears I was unsuccessful. Pity.) 

Finally, I coated the wooden pieces with Minwax sealant and polyurethane (I used the classic oak color.) 
Wear gloves while while polyurethaning as it is very difficult to get it off of your hands. 

When I started the task on Wednesday it was about 60*F, and the polyurethaning seemed to go better than when I finished on Friday, when it was about 40* F. The colder weather made the sealant dry faster, which left more streaks, whereas on Wednesday it dripped all over the wood and left a nice smooth finish. 

You may notice there are some pieces with awkward blue ends. This was the color of the ends of the 2x4s. I attempted to sand off the color, but was unsuccessful. I figure I could always add an additional rule associated with the blocks with blue edges, such as that player goes twice or skips a turn, whatever. 

You could also paint the blocks different colors or make a variation of the original Jenga- such as some of Hasbro's versions like "Truth or Dare Jenga."

Another idea (via Pinterest) Is to make a Jenga "Guest Book" and have guests write messages on each of the tiles. This could be a good idea for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays etc. The giant Jenga would allow for more writing room than the original version! 


Total cost of the project: 

* Wood $19
* Minwax $10
* Sandpaper $7 
total = $ 36

A heck of a lot less than $100! 

You may also need to buy paint brushes, the ventilator or safety goggles, which would increase your cost a bit, but if you take care of them they can last through a few projects. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wine Wednesday

I love having weekdays off, they seem so much more special and deserving of productivity than weekend days off. 

I currently have Wednesdays off, which is quite a nice little mid-week break, and a great time to get random errands and projects done.

My To-do list for today included:
·      Walk Leo
·      Yoga
·      Shower
·      Sand wood
·      Put up decorations
·      Pack lunch
·      Blog -- in progress :)

You may be aware that I have a slight addiction to Pinterest. There was some quote that says something to the matter of The irony of pinterest: the website where you pin inspirational pictures of workouts and ideal bodies, next to decadent, calorie laden foods.  

I could not find the exact quote I was looking for, but this one has similar sentiments.

The sentiments of the quotes are for the most part is true, but I have found it quite useful for compiling ideas I want for the wedding (including pinning possible bridesmaids dresses, food, and other general inspiration .... um I told you I was addicted already, give me a break).  I have also used it a lot for finding recipes, and some crafts. 

Today I started working on my very own Giant Jenga set (Inspired by pinterest of course)... I haven't finished my set yet so this one will act as my inspiration picture. I ran out of sand paper while sanding, so I will have to pick up on this project next time I have time (to be continued...)

After putting off my Giant Jenga making, I then set off to decorate the house.

For those of you that do not know, Jordan and I were planning to move to California so that he could more actively pursue his screen writing career, but alas we put off our plans after getting engaged and choosing to get married on the east coast (that coupled with the job market and me not being able to fine a job on the west coast.) 

So, for the time being we are living with his parents up in Gloucester, MA which is quite nice, and not paying rent is helpful for saving up some money, though the commute is a bit of a pain. We technically live in a little "cottage" off of his parents house, so we do not have room for a Christmas tree or many decorations inside of the house, so instead, I decorated the trees outside.

Alina (Jordan's Madre) had a couple of big shatter-resistant ornaments for the outside, but she sent me to get more when I made a trip to Home Depot (for my Jenga supplies...) I bought the 100 piece Martha Stewart shatter-resistant ornament set.

At the time of decorating, I started to think I made a terrible decision on the purchase! Not because they were a bad quality or anything, but simply because 100 + ornaments are really annoying to put up on your own, especially when spread across 7 outdoor trees! 

In the end, I think they came out pretty good (though I was not able to get any good pictures via my phone unfortunately.) 

After tree decorating, it was time for a late lunch of an antipasto-salad with: baby spinach, iceberg lettuce, roasted potatoes, carrots and onions, american cheese and deli ham and topped with Trader Joe's fat free balsamic vinaigrette.

Yes, it is in a mixing bowl... again, let's reserve judgement. Thanks.

Leo snugged up with me during lunch time, and then we went on a nice 3 mile wog (that's walk/ jog) along the ocean and through the woods.

After returning from the puppy wog, I felt really lazy and tired, so decided to scrap the yoga and just shower.  Furthermore, it is in fact #WineWednesday so I felt that I should honor it. We oddly are out of wine so I made due with a glass of this weird Sangria drink that Jordan's sister left behind.

 It is a very sweet wine drink with fruit juice in it. I had to water it down a lot. Nice fruity flavor, though clearly not for the wine snob. 

And now I have finished off as much as my list as I am going to today- and so- I bid you adieu!  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Slightly less guilty sundae

I often question how I managed to become a dietitian: Growing up I was taught that ice cream was healthy. My grandmother (who ate ice cream at least once a day) believed it was one of the best sources of calcium. - While I have learned it is a good source of calcium, it certainly is not the most healthy manner of consuming it.

Despite not being the most healthy food, I do love ice cream. I personally have a very large sweet tooth, so I am always on the quest to find somewhat healthier versions of decadent treats. Similar to how I 'diluted' my beef and broccoli last night with extra vegetables and whole grains I often dilute my treats with healthier items.

My most recent creation is blackberries, with Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (60% cocoa) and Bavarian Espresso light ice cream (how fabulous does that sound? I assure you it is even better).

First I filled the bowl with about 1 cup of frozen blackberries, and sprinkle with some chocolate chips (mine were frozen too).

I defrosted this in the microwave for 2 minutes (I like it to it to get warm and squishy.)

Next I added on about 1/2 cup of Bavarian Espresso Ice Cream. (I am sure it would be great with whatever flavor you like.)

Since it had all of the berries (which are low in fat, and high in for vitamins, fiber, antioxidants) they add volume and help make the delicious dessert more filling and long lasting.

This still isn't a low calorie snack... the portions I ate are probably around 320 calories (~120 from the 1 cup of berries, 120 for the 1/2 cup of ice cream, and 80 calories in a 16 dark chocolate chips) You could always cut down the serving sizes.
Also,  I frequently mix in nonfat yogurt with the ice cream which can also help cut calories and fat.

What is your favorite snack??