Glowing, radiant health is the new black. Our Green Table is serving it up, for the whole body! Healthy recipes and tips, the latest on eco-friendly food and "skin food"products and a head's up on ingredient safety are all woven into family-centered stories and discoveries. Bring informed, aware and empowered looks good on everyone!

Abrazos! xox Penny

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Staying Power: How sweet it is!

I got this in the mail over the weekend...

It is a fabulous shot of my hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. That city has certainly been getting a lot of press and well-deserved attention recently. It has made quite a comeback. When my family first moved there, steel was still king and grit reigned.

I wrote the post a few weeks back, Flipping Them Off (July 16, 2010), and told my woeful tale of learning how to drive...twice. I mentioned a farm we would drive to as part of my training. It was Soergel's. Their orchard dates back to the 1850's and in my memory, produced the most fabulous apples that made the best pies and cider ever. That was my practice and from Soergel's little country roadside stand to get a basket of apples, a gallon of cider, a pie or all three. But, you know, that was a long time ago and I wondered, with all the changes over the years, had Soergel's orchard and farm stand survived?

Well, yes indeed! Not only survived, it seems to be thriving and here is their logo, with apples pretty as a picture. And, look at those mouthwatering pies! Here is a big The Red White and Food shout out to Soergel's and all the farmers who continue to grow our food and have stuck it out despite scorching heat, too little or too much rain and competition from everywhere. Soergel's looks like it has expanded its crops, turned its little stand into a bustling store and now offers lots of other services like gift baskets, help with special food needs and tours.  Apples still are the star crop and below is a great chart of which apples are in season when. We all live in different locations, but this chart is helpful for any apple eater. Thanks, Soergels and congratulations!

Unless you are in the 'Burg and reading this, Soergels is a little out of town for most of you, and so, go visit your local farmers markets and roadside stands this weekend and see which apples are ready for munching. Arkansas Blacks, Razor Russets, all sorts of Pippins...Fall's favorite fruit is beginning to hit the markets!

Here is a favorite way to make applesauce, using any crisp eating apple like Braeburns, Galas or Golden Delicious. It's a perfect follow up to yesterday's post! See note below for more information, too.

Baked Applesauce

4 pounds of apples
pinch of sea salt
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Core and quarter apples. (Peel if you want to or you can pulse cooked peels in a blender later). Sprinkle with a little sea salt and brown sugar. Spread in a shallow baking pan so that the apples are in a single layer but still crowded together. Dot with slivers of butter and a shake of cinnamon, if desired.  Cover with foil or glass if using a Pyrex dish and bake in 375 oven for 15-30 minutes, or until softened. Baking times vary with different apple varieties. Uncover, turn up heat to 500 and let bake about 10 minutes more, watching so they don't burn.

Remove from oven and stir until the apples are blended into in a chunky sauce. Taste and add another dash of sea salt, sprinkle of brown sugar or cinnamon or even a drop of apple cider vinegar. Makes about 3 cups.

*Note: Apples are listed in the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen", the 12 most contaminated crops and so buy organic or ask, ask, ask your apple farmer what pesticides, herbicides or sprays are used. Wash well and peel if you cannot find "clean" apples.

Also, here is a very extensive article on chickens and eggs. I will also post it in Our Little Green Book:

Monday, August 30, 2010

If you are not eggs-actly sure...

Such a week for meat and eggs. Recalls and more recalls. And a perfect, but unexpected topic to discuss today. I love eggs and look forward to having them on the weekends. I like them for any meal, not just breakfast. The French say there are about 1000 ways to cook eggs. I know about 10 and so eggs seemed to offer me an endless culinary adventure, until this week.

I am very careful about where I buy my eggs and feel safe and at peace with the ones I eat. That is the key. Ask, ask, ask and question everything, even what I share here. This issue goes way beyond our health, safety and enjoyment of eggs. There are dozens of articles and news clips available and so educate yourself on eggs and their whole story from hen to your hand. There are some reference books listed, too, on Our Little Green Book tab. Ultimately, you and you alone have to be at peace with what you buy and either put in or on your body. I have found my "pieces of peace" and want you to find yours, too!

If you are not exactly sure about this whole egg recall mess or if you are setting out to lower your consumption of eggs for whatever reason, it is pretty easy to do, and tasty, too. If you bake a lot, here are some simple substitutions:

1. For each egg in the recipe, substitute 3 tablespoons of applesauce or mashed banana. Most everything will turn out the same and be nice and moist to boot.

2. You can also use flax seeds and water in place of eggs. Use 2 parts warm water to 1 part flax seed and put in a blender for about 15 minutes. Then, blend away and really grind this up until smooth. One tablespoon of this mix equals 1 egg. Refrigerate any leftovers and use up within 10 days to 2 weeks.

I have never tried the actual "egg replacement" products and so I cannot comment on them.

I have had "tofu" egg salad and it is quite good. The secrets to tofu? First, it must be organic and second, the seasonings should be bold. It can absorb whatever flavors you like and be absolutely delicious.  And so, I took this recall as a chance to adventure a little into the tofu unknown. I am still on shaky ground with tofu or I guess I should say, I am in the skill-building stage! The ultimate challenge for me was to find a yummy "scambled'' recipe. By George, I believe I've done it. If you are not feeling the adventure, these would be delicious made with real eggs, too.

Denver Tofu Scramble

1 tablespoon unsalted butter*
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced sweet onion
2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/2 pound organic tofu, firm or extra-firm
1-1 1/2 teaspoons good quality curry powder
sea salt and fresh black pepper

In a skillet, melt butter and add in garlic and onion, Saute for a few minutes and then add in peppers and saute until they just lose that "raw" state and are still crispy. Drain tofu and crumble or cut into small cubes. Toss with curry powder and add to skillet. Stir to mix well and cover for about 3-4 minutes, or until heated through. Taste and adjust curry. You may want to sprinkle on extra. Season with sea salt (little sprinkle should do it) and fresh black pepper. Serves 2

*Note: For a more Indian presentation, I use butter or ghee as the fat and serve with naan. For a more Asian finish, toasted sesame oil as the fat would be delish, perhaps with a splash of soy sauce and served with rice. For more South of the Border flavors, use olive oil and serve with salsa as pictured here. I didn't have any tortillas on hand though and used my favorite cracker.

You can also cut loose and add in other veggies like mushrooms (saute with onion), tomatoes, corn, spinach, broccoli or whatever suits your fancy. I also like this served in wraps, nestled in tomato or avocado halves, scooped on crackers or chilled with a little mayo added in, like a curried "egg'"salad. Once you get the flavor to your liking, the options are endless.

For a weekend breakfast, this is really good served with home fries or sweet potato fries, which I just realized I have never shared that recipe for...will do later in the week!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beet feet

Can you believe another week has gone by??? Holy cow. And almost another month,too. Time truly does fly and so I better hurry up with this post. It has been a scary week for food and I will have a post on Monday dealing with the egg recall.

I have more than a few food loves and beets are among them. I love them for their deep earthy flavors, versatility and color. This is a soup I made recently and actually used some golden beets as well as red. Look at the color. Just beautiful. This soup makes a lovely summer-on-the-porch meal and is especially nice with last Friday's salad, sans beets. "Double beet" may be overload for some of you!

While deeply flavored and a little spicier than some borschts, you can control the heat in two ways: add cayenne after the soup has chilled and have a little yogurt handy. It is not super spicy at all...just has a nice little kick. I adapted this recipe from one that appeared in The New York Times.

Spicy Summer Borscht

1 1/2 pounds beets, any color 
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 large shallots, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 cloves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste 
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon  sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup whole-milk yogurt, optional 
Chopped fresh chives or green onion tops, sliced (optional)

Peel and slice the beets and put them in a large saucepan. Cover with 8 cups water and add the garlic, shallots, bay leaf, coriander, cloves, cayenne, sugar, vinegar, oil and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the beets are tender. Check the seasoning of the broth. It should be distinctly sweet, sour, peppery and flavorful. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and cayenne if necessary, and freshly ground pepper. Cool slightly.

Remove the bay leaf. Cool slightly, then purée the soup in a blender, in small batches so it doesn't explode all over the place. Strain into a large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator or over ice until cold.

Just before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a splash of vinegar if necessary. Thin with a little water to achieve the correct thickness — like a thin milkshake. To serve, pour into flat soup bowls or even pretty glasses. Garnish with freshly ground pepper and, if desired, fresh chives or chopped green onion tops. You can add a dollop of yogurt and swirl it in. Serves 6.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I just remembered

In the nick of time, too. With Labor Day on the horizon, it just dawned on me, we haven't talked "Tiki". Oh my, such an omission! As a matter of fact, I probably won't do this iconic summer theme justice and so for a more complete fix and fixins', visit this website:

For now, just go light those torches, grab a palm leaf fan or two, don a sarong and get ready to hula. This drink sounds like it will set you and the Dog Days of Summer free! It is the Tiki classic, Zombie Cocktail

1 measure dark rum
1 measure white rum
½ measure apricot brandy
2 measures pineapple juice
½ measure lime juice
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Garnish: cocktail cherry and pineapple wedge

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail mixer with ice and shake, then pour into a hurricane glass. Spear the pineapple and cherry onto a swizzle stick and place on the edge of the glass, finally add a straw and a cute little drink umbrella. Serves 1 summer celebrant.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another one bites the (toxic) dust

I wash most of all of my flatware and glasses by hand. They are fragile and not dishwasher-safe. I switched to Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products about a year ago. I also have her hand soap in the bathroom. Right after the one-two punch of the skincare and hair color info that I shared last week, I thought, OK... good. I got it down now.

No...not so fast.

One of the big hazards to be aware of in skincare, the category which dishwashing liquid and hand soaps also fall into because of frequent use and direct skin contact, are PEG's (PEG 40, 80, 100...there are lots of them) or anything ending in "-eth". These are suspect 'until proven clean' of being contaminated by 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is not listed on any label. This known animal carcinogen and suspected human carcinogen is formed during the process called "ethoxylation" which changes harsher ingredients into a milder state, for example when lauryl is converted to laureth, by adding the petro-chemical ethylene oxide.

A consumer can identify products that may contain 1,4-dioxane by scanning ingredient lists for the common ingredients that may contain the impurity, identifiable by the prefix or designations of 'PEG,' '–eth–,' 'Polyethylene,' 'Polyethylene glycol' 'Polyoxyethylene,' or '–oxynol–' (FDA 2007).

The U.S. National Toxicology Program has concluded that 1,4-dioxane is 'reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen' based on numerous animal studies (NTP 2005). IARC classifies 1,4-dioxane as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' (IARC 1999), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 1,4-dioxane a probable human carcinogen (EPA 2003). Exposures to this impurity are linked to tumors of the liver, gallbladder, nasal cavity, lung, skin, and breast (IARC 1999; NTP 2005). Presence of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics is of special concern, since it can be absorbed through the skin in toxic amounts.

Also, be particularly wary of any "nano" technology or "nano" particles used...that is where ingredients are encapsulated in a special delivery system to go deeper into the cell. You need to do a real purity check on any of those because they could be mainlining toxic stuff right to the heart of your cells!

And so, there it was, big as life on my hand soap: sodium laureth sulfate. I rushed to and entered in Mrs. Meyers and the parent company, Caldrea. Non-signers of the Compact for Cosmetic Safety with hazardous scores between 3-7. As you know from last week, I have a "safety first" blog and will not recommend any non-signer's products at all and only signer's products with hazard scores between "0" and "2". Therefore, 'nuf said about these two companies.

With stuff piling up in the sink, now what? I love this "sandwich" stage...I am surrounded by great teachers. I remembered my daughter had told me about Dr. Bronner's "magic" castile soaps,
Lissa said you can use them for everything, in a pinch, even brushing your teeth! I remembered, too, that my grandmother had used castile soap. And so, I ran again to the hazard database. Dr. Bronner is a signer and his products score "1-2". Maybe I should write Michael Pollan to amend his Food "Just eat what grandma did; just do what grandma did. Period." I have added these products into Our Little Green Book. They are a "go". I am going to go now, too, and wash up the pile in the sink!

If this post has you a little lost, read the three most recent posts under "Dressing Table Beauty Bites".  Next week, I will have more news on hair color and will share a letter from a senator.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Lovin' had me a blast

With Mother Earth.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for your input on ways you were saving energy this summer. My list is on a post called "Sea-ing What I Can Do" June 9, 2010, under "environmental impact" on the sidebar. I have one amendment to add to it; I am now using petroleum-free, toxin-free, made-in-the-USA skincare. I am always on the lookout for safer, better solutions.

Here is a terrific list of what all of YOU are doing and for all those who contributed, a big The Red White and Food shout-out. Did I miss anyone's? If so, email me, Fall's coming. Let's keep adding to this list!

1. cook more, eat out less
2. switch animal proteins to vegetable proteins (Yay!)

3. brown bag lunch to work
4. buy local first, state second, USA third, overseas if it's a necessity
5. drink water from tap
6. walk to work
7. ride bike to work
8. no a/c in car for errand hopping (Phew...I am with you there. It won't be cool soon enough!)
9. use public transportation
10. car pool
11. bundle errands
12. use "air dry" cycle in dishwasher
13. use cloth napkins
14. use cloth dish towels
15. multi-use for oven; bundle meal prep
16. careful choices with plastics
17. no Styrofoam
18. no "disposables" for picnics/outdoor unless eco-friendly
19. no petroleum-based detergents
20. use "air dry" cycle or clothesline for clothes
21  unplug appliances, tech stuff aren't using, especially phone and computer chargers
22. don't print or when do,print on both sides of paper
23. don't flush every time
24. use less hot water
25. compost
26. recycle
27. recycle pet's water to water household plants
28. BYOB to grocery store
29. buy more fresh, much less ready-to-eat, plastic packaged foods and deli foods
30. buy less, DIY more
31. grow it myself
32. vote with time, dollars and ballot

Thanks so much for doing and sharing! xoxoxo

And here is a breathtaking shot from a friend of the beauty Mother Earth had in store for Little Peconic Bay this morning...I hope my mom saw this. xoxoxo

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatless Monday: Checking out hearty things

This is a great Meatless Monday topic. Most community hospitals offer a heart risk assessment for a nominal fee and publicize these "fairs" in the paper about every few weeks. Saturday, our Heart Hospital
offered one and for $10 here is what I found out: my total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, TC/HDL ratio, blood pressure, triglycerides, glucose, % body fat and BMI. My shoe size I am withholding. Just kidding. Well, no, I'm not.

What really interested me were the changes since January when I last had this done and also decided then to shift what I eat away from animal foods to whole, plant-based foods. I have been doing these assessments since 1998 and by far, the most beneficial changes occurred over the past few months. Since January, I have lost between 8-10 pounds (the hospital's and my scales differ), my total cholesterol has always been great but did drop about 38 points (55 points total since 1998) and my triglycerides about 10 (13 total since 1998). Interesting, because I am eating more than ever and having so much fun doing it.

This just confirms that although I am fairly slender, I had some sludge to clear out and now, it seems, my body has settled itself into a better place. The nurses were pretty amazed, too, and want me to come back and talk with them about what I have done. I wanted to share this today because these assessments are a very inexpensive and convenient way for everyone to keep tabs on their blood levels, and so keep your eyes peeled for these fairs in your community.

Meatless Monday is a fabulous "companion" campaign and Our Green Table is so happy to support heart healthy nutrition, today and every day.

Here is our Meatless Monday recipe for a "hearty" soup. The tortellini give it a nice "chew" which a lot of meat eaters will find comforting and this soup can go from summer to winter just by playing with the ingredients. Pretty close to a meal in itself, it is a nice starting recipe for those just jumping on board our veggie wagon. We welcome all aboard!

Summer Tortellini Soup

4 cups fresh spinach, torn into bite size pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow sweet bell pepper, diced
1 15-ounce can white beans with liquid ( I use "no salt added" Eden Organic for safe, BPA-free cans)
4 cups (organic) vegetable broth
4 tomatoes, chopped (or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid; fire-roasted are nice)
1 9-ounce package fresh tortellini of choice
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper
fresh basil sprigs
Parmesan cheese, optional

Saute garlic in a little olive oil until it just starts to turn golden brown. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in broth, beans with their liquid, tomatoes with their liquid and bell pepper. Bring to a boil. Add tortellini and simmer about 5-7 minutes or until pasta is "al dente". Taste for seasonings. I usually do not add any salt. Serve with basil sprig and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Note: I also add in any other summer vegetables on hand like zucchini and summer squash. I toss these in with the garlic and saute for a few minutes to heighten the flavor, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bountiful Celebration!

This Sunday is World Kitchen Garden Day...a day to give a big shout out to all our brave herbs and veggies that have made it through this blistering summer. My herbs are great. Although now looking a little parched, they are troopers. You may remember I planted 5 tomato plants and expected a harvest for the whole street. I had visions of abundance. I fantasized about making salsas, curries, sauces, soups with plenty of tomatoes leftover for sun-drying and roasting. I have stacks of tomato recipes dog-eared. I can hear John Lennon now, "You may say I am a dreamer...".  I have lots to learn. Here is my total harvest:

So fleeting, I couldn't even get these two little guys into focus for this picture. And soon, there was just one. Right after I took this shot, one rolled off the table and my Chihuahua Stu gobbled it up. He ate it all, although he did shoot me a few quizzical looks. "What is this, Mom?" I think what I did wrong was not water the baby plants deeply enough in the beginning. This winter, I am hitting the gardening books.

Every celebration needs a a beautiful dish and here is what I am serving. Most of the veggies are from someone else's garden and the sunflowers are, too. How gorgeous is this???

World Kitchen Garden Day Salad

1  ripe avocado, cut into chunks or slices
1 tomato, sliced...heirlooms and small grape tomatoes are so pretty
1 cucumber, sliced into bite-sized pieces...I prefer the English ones
1 carrot, shaved with a veggie peeler into long curls as shown
2-3 beets, roasted and sliced...I like to mix colors, one yellow beet, one red, one striped
fresh mushrooms, sliced
8-10 fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped
8-10 fresh basil sprigs, chopped
fresh salad greens of choice
handful or two of fresh arugula and fresh dandelion greens, if desired
2-4 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds or combination of toasted pumpkin and sunflower
any other veggies from the garden 

Tear spring greens and lettuces into bite-sized pieces. There is nothing less appetizing than a salad with huge leaves of lettuce to navigate. Add everything else and then toss with this dressing:


3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or for a special treat, olive oil infused with truffle oil
juice and grated rind of 1 fresh lemon
juice and grated rind of 1 orange
sea salt and pepper

Mix all well and taste for seasonings. You can also add in an extra sprig of basil, rosemary or lavender. Set aside.

Serve salad sprinkled generously with toasted seeds and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately because the beets will bleed after sitting for a while. Serves 4.

For more on this holiday, check out this link: Next year, now that I know about this great day, I will organize an Our Green Table community event for this. Mark your calendars, 4th Sunday in August 2011. You, me, us and our gardens.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Liquid Art

In this heat, should Thirsty Thursdays be every day? Just when I think the heat has blown its final gasket, it boils back up there again.  Being a red wine drinker, it will not be fall soon enough. I guess I could chill it some. However, the heat has given me an excuse to see what all those unused bottles on our "bar" are good for and what kind of beverage I can coax out of them.

I have a lot of respect for bartenders. They have a vast, complex and curious palette of flavors and mixers to work with....really beverage creation is like liquid art that has to be as pretty as it is delicious as it is spirited. A tall order! Here is to all of you who create and pour amazing cocktails and wines every day!

Yesterday The New York Times cover story in their "Dining and Wine" section was on watermelons, specifically the new seedless ones being grown in Hope, AR. You may remember awhile back, I did a whole post on Hope, "Hope in a Glass", 7/15/10. Fun. And, there was also a curious bottle in our stash...grenadine syrup. It got me thinking. Would  watermelon and grenadine be a good mix? Pretty, delicious and spirited? I went back to my trusty resource, and they were one step ahead of me. Done deal. Here is a cool and luscious drink for today's Happy Hour, using both grenadine syrup and watermelon. Look at this beauty.

Watermelon Wine Spritzers

2 cups small cubed chilled seedless watermelon
1 bottle chilled Chardonnay
2 tablespoons grenadine syrup
12 ounces chilled sparkling mineral water

Divide the watermelon among 6 to 8 white wine glasses, then divide the wine, grenadine, and sparkling water among the glasses and give them a quick stir. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 spritzers.

Here is the link to the NYT article and while you are there, check out another delicious beverage recipe: Watermelon and Ginger Spritzer. Yum!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Color Us Beautiful? Hair to Dye For

Note: Yesterday's post was our most read ever, followed closely by August 10th's. Thank you for your interest and for letting OGT help with your food and personal care safety. As best we can, we will steer you clear of all the hazardous chemical soup out there.

Last week, my dear friend T. called and asked, "Penny, are we ever going to be able to leave the house?  And, what do you know about hair coloring??"

The answer to the first question...absolutely and, if we want to, we can "dance like no one is watching", dance a jig or dance an Argentine Tango (Oh, my... such a mesmerizing dance. You will have to indulge me. I just watched Assassination Tango and this will make more sense when you see the pix below!)

That is the beauty of all of this. Choose well. Worry less. You do what you know you can with the best info at that time and that's all you can do. No worries. You will naturally become less toxin-loaded, stronger and more immune to sludge. Just go out there and live and make better choices. Have a great day and help others to the same. And, you can be assured when even better things come up, I will share them with you in posts and under the tab "Our Little Green Book". Smart shopping will get a lot easier.

Here is the checklist so far that OGT has offered up in "Our Little Green Book" for all to enjoy a better quality of life: wholesome food check, wholesome skincare check.

Answer to the second question...not much. I actually had a whole hair post ready and pulled it after I ran the companies through Ugh...very disappointing. Scary. And, I was going to talk about curly hair, but there is something much more urgent at the root of things today.

Here is me as little girl age 3 with my first dance partner, a doll I still have. Oh, and my brother is there, too. The other picture, me again age 22. What you can't see is my then carrot-colored hair. Fast forward to about fifteen years ago and my hairdresser said, "You know we gotta get rid of this gray, right?" Bar none, I have ugliest gray hair imaginable. Whenever I had trouble with my skin, weight, etc, my mom would always say, "There's that throwback gene again for you. It's from Papa Dick's side."

NO love lost between my mom and grandfather. Mercy. But I loved him dearly. Anyway, on this gray hair matter, I have to agree. My dad was also a redhead but had the "good" gray hair gene. As he aged, his hair faded to a luminous peaches and cream then golden white. Mine is really bad looking and so, I "enhance" the good color that is left. However, I don't want to have brain fry or worse because of it. Enter my also concerned friend.

After a frustrating search, I did come up with one company that has products available at Whole Foods and online, Light Mountain. They are signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics although currently in the non-compliant status which means they have not provided all the necessary info, but, for now, the products they have on the database receive a "1" with a "0" being the least toxic to "10", most toxic. Most others I looked up were AWOL or off the charts.

And so here is my plan. My next appointment, I am taking in some and we will see how it does. The pink color of the bird is freaking me out a little though!  Please tell me Frenchie is not sporting their "Light Red"...

A big plus: I have my body working for me. That is: I eat foods that support my liver and kidney's detoxifying roles (ie. primarily whole, plant-based foods) and use skin care that supports my skin's ability to do the same. Those I can do and eliminate a lot of the constant daily barrage of chemicals that just come from Living 101. Good. Check.

Hair color I limit to once every 4-5 weeks and will still keep on turning over rocks to find a better solution. On my next trip to NYC, I will do some snooping. Already have my "walk abouts" planned! And so, there are even better things coming along. I just gotta find them!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clearly there are not enough Wednesdays in the week.

I need more time, actually, another couple of Wednesdays each week, and so, I am creating one today, on Tuesday. For those of you who are new, Wednesdays are our "girl talk" days with info that affects families everywhere.

Today, I need to finish up what began last Wednesday, a post on the health hazards of skin care, so I can dig to the root of another healthy living issue tomorrow. Before I get to a common question asked over and over after last Wednesday's post, here are some facts on skin care products that will add some background to our discussion:

•The average woman uses 12 personal care products daily exposing her to 168 chemicals each and every day. Teens use 17, exposing themselves to even more. Men, about 6.

The U.S. cosmetic industry is self-regulating. The European Union banned the use of 1109 chemicals in its personal care products-including sodium laurel sulphate. The FDA has banned the use of 10 chemicals in U.S. personal care products.;rgn=div6;view=text;node=21%3A7.;idno=21;sid=11932eedf179169919a4f92bf2ebd207;cc=ecfr

•Some cosmetic companies argue that the level of harmful chemicals in any one product is not enough to harm you. Even small doses of some chemicals can have serious consequences in children and young women. And since you reach for the same product every day, several days a week for months or years, that "small exposure" can add up to major exposure over an extended period of time. 

Our skin is our largest organ and quickly absorbs about 60% of what we put on it...the good, bad and the hazardous. the Question of the Week, "What about.....?"

I wrote The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics last week about the 5 brands I kept hearing about over and over about from all of you. You were having trouble finding them in the database or could just find a couple of products. All are direct sales/network marketing companies. I began to wonder if we were just missing a special tab where all those companies were located, although I had looked up a couple of others and found them and their products very easily....signers of the Compact and fully compliant.  And so, I wrote and asked.

Below is the response I got back directly from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Beauticontrol was also included and the info for them is the same as the 4 talked about here. Here is the email:

From: "Campaign for Safe Cosmetics" To: "Penny Rudder"
Friday, August 13, 2010 6:46 PM

Hi Penny,

And thanks for your question.

Arbonne, Avon, Mary Kay and Melaleuca - all companies that claim to support women's health- are aware of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics but have refused to sign it. If they are truly for women's health (and disease prevention) and are making "safe" products it shouldn't be too hard for them to sign the Compact. Over 1,500 companies have signed the Compact, a commitment to manufacture personal care products free of carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins.

As for lead-free products that Avon makes, it's impossible to tell without testing everything in their line. That's the shame in all of this, and it shines a light on how much work we still need to do. Nice that we have introduced the federal Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 to help remedy this!

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics does not endorse or hand-pick "safe" companies to refer customers to. The growing list of safer companies on our Web site is comprised solely of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. 

We get a lot of inquiries from (the above listed) customers and consultants, so if we all make it clear that we're serious about demanding safe products maybe we'll see some movement!

And, just so you know how the database, was formed, this from the book, Not Just a Pretty Face..."it was compiled from the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Compendium, a review of the safety summaries of 1,100 ingredients reviewed by the cosmetic industry's safety panel. The database compares ingredients in products to the recommendations in the Compendium and shows if the industry is even following the recommendations of its own safety manual. And further, that is the biggest irony: that this industry that is purportedly self-regulating, that pushed 30 years ago to have its own safety panel outside the FDA, was (is) not even following the advice of that panel when it comes to product safety."  And this on hazard scores, "Product ratings are brand-blind, based on a hazard classification scoring system that applies product by product, and are subject to change as scientific data develops and becomes public."

These are the facts. As a private citizen, this is what I am going to do. I have already written my congressman and have to figure out how to do more. I am going to minimize my risks. I have made my own decisions about which products I am going to use now to protect myself, stay healthy, worry less. Health=Beauty. I am moving forward with a safe solution.(August 10th post)

On this site which is all about "peace", I will offer only the "beauty" discoveries that fit the following:

1. Company must be a signer of "The Compact for Safe Cosmetics," the pledge to not use cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting ingredients in their products. 

2. Company must fully disclose product ingredients.

3. Products must earn the lowest toxicity rating of 0-2 by The Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep Report." (Products are rated on a 0-10 scale. Zero being least toxic. Ten being most toxic.) 

4. I am adding later today a new tab "Our Little Green Book". This will be OGT's Safety Manual where I will list all the links that I have shared on this blog. Some will include special offers just for us. That way, you will have a quick and growing list of safe products available with one simple click.

I have tried to be very unemotional up until now and just share the facts. But, truly, when I learned that a cancer survivor was told to use products that on the database have known hazards, high ones at that, it ignited my passion. The power of information just got personal and I am so happy to share the new discoveries I have made. No more confusion. Just a wonderful opportunity to make life better!

If you are as passionate as I am about this, please let me know. This is a call to action. I need your help. We all do. There are some fun ways we can share the message and offer others safe solutions.

The safety levels of the products we use daily should not be best described as:

For those of you who want the full footnoted and annotated script from The Story of Cosmetics, email me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meatless Monday: Egg me on

I bought the peaches; I really did and actually set some aside to make Friday's cheesecake recipe. But then, as I suspected, things didn't go as planned. I made salsa instead.

I have some cooked black beans leftover and feel that after all the intensity of last week, I need some comfort food. That is the beauty of cooking veg. Whether you are just doing Meatless Mondays or meatless every day, you can keep basics like cooked beans ready on hand and presto, you can create another dish in the flash of a pan.  And so, tonight, I am cozying up to Huevos Rancheros and calling it a day. Tomorrow, I am back at it with a very "newsy" post.

Huevos Rancheros

Tortillas of choice, 1-2 per person
Fresh eggs, 1-2 per person
Cooked black beans (or use canned Eden Organic Refried Beans)
Pico de Gallo
Jalapeno Dressing (see Monday, August 9th)

Warm tortillas in oven while preparing eggs and beans. Add a small amount of olive oil to a small skillet and if desired, add a clove of fresh garlic and some sliced green onions. Cook until garlic starts to soften and turns a little golden. Add beans and mash. Continue cooking beans and stirring them around so they form a little crust and aren't too wet.

Cook eggs as desired. I start mine out as a "fried" egg and then before completely set, I pop the lid on the pan and the yolk turns that pretty pinkish tinge as in the pix. These are my mom's favorites: pink eggs she call them.

To assemble: Place tortilla on a plate and spread with refried black beans. Top with egg. Surround your creation with Pico de Gallo and drizzle Jalapeno Dressing over top. Serve with avocado wedges.

Pico De Gallo

3 large tomatoes (I like to mix colors)
1 shallot or about 1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and deveined, if desired, and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all these chopped vegetables together and mix well. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Refrigerate any leftovers. This is a basic go-to salsa fresca. Makes about 2 cups.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Visit from The Tooth Fairy

I am not kidding...maybe it happened while I was sleeping. I got a visit from the Tooth Fairy. My "Sweet Tooth" is missing in action, or rather, so diminished that it is conspicuous in its absence. I am not sure what happened because the theft was so stealthy.

I used to have a pretty big Sweet Tooth. Legendary in our family. Show me a good cookie or delicious ice cream and I am on it. As a matter of fact, I felt like I had a special internal radar and could ferret out sweets, even from across town.  As a kid, I used to hide frozen, well, thawed Sara Lee Banana Cakes under my bed. As a cheerleader, I once bought 24 doughnuts, then ate them in an afternoon. When my son was in college in Boston, I planned my flights home by, "Honey, Scoops doesn't open 'til 11..." I am a five decade supporter of this magical place:

You get the picture.( And the "kulfi" flavor by the way, is out of this world!). I took sweets seriously. I mean, for heaven's sake, I have a whole cupcake tour of New York City!!

This sweet bent was particularly true when I ate a lot of animal protein, Adkins-like. I really, really craved sweets. Having to be very careful with my weight always, I would buy goodies and then hoard them, supposedly to ration and eat bite by bite. But you know the end of that story; I ate them 'til not a crumb or lick was left. I had a stash in the freezer, too. Yikes.

But, since moving my body into whole, plant-based foods, I have become much more balanced than I thought (ha!) and take sweets in tiny little bites to savor, not inhale. And, they taste really sweet. Weird...the change was so subtle. The other day, I ate a quarter of a favorite new frozen treat. A quarter. Goodness. And, it was just right. I had heard, along with the "your thighs will be thinner" rumor, that eating a plant-based diet cleanses your palate, things taste as they should and flavors pop. The fat from animal protein dulls sweetness, as well as other flavors, and so you eat more sweets to get your fix. Once the palate loses its coating of fat, the cravings for more and more sweetness diminish. I would have to say for me, yes, that is totally true. The thigh thing, no. Although I have lost a few pounds.

And so I am sharing today's recipe with a little bit of uncharacteristic ambivalence. A reader had asked about cheesecakes, another about spices and it is high peach season. This recipe sounds delicious and is from a company I wanted to talk about anyway, another mail order gem, Penzey's Spices. I got this recipe tucked in an order a couple of years ago. But honestly, I haven't made it yet and am thinking more about a big, juicy fresh peach than this dessert.

However, that is not to say, it probably is, creamy and sweet. Penzey's is. And everything I have ordered from them is top-notch. Go check 'em out at and if you make this over the weekend, let me know how you like it! I just might not get to it.

Peach Cheesecake Squares **(This is Penzey's recipe. If you want my "OGT" or a vegan version, just email me.) 

2 cups ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoon cinnamon sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Toss sliced peaches with cinnamon sugar, set aside. In a large bowl combine flour and powdered sugar. Cut in the butter until mix is crumbly and a little dry. Reserve 2 cups of this mixture for the topping. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9-by-13-inch pan (glass is preferred). Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in the condensed milk until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Remove the crust from the oven (after 15 minutes) and carefully smooth the peaches over the crust. Drizzle with any juice in the bowl. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the peaches. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture over the cream cheese filling. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until bubbly and starting to brown on the top. Let cool. Makes 10 to 15 servings.

Note: For those of you who are concerned, YES, I am going to being sharing more "less toxic" personal products next Wednesday. I have already started the post...let me know what your interests are and how I can help.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thirsty Thursday: Fire Water

Note: Yesterday's post was one of our most read to date. And, yes, I will keep hunting for the healthiest news I can find. We are in this together!

I have been fired up all week and today is no exception. Actually, today I can use this fiery attitude of mine to play a little and share a great recipe for a spicy drink. No, no chilies but ginger. You may have guessed that I bought way too many ginger ales the other week and so it has been fun thinking up new ways to drink them. Lucky for me, Thirsty Thursday rolls around just in time!

And so, here is a great recipe for today's Happy Hour. Grab a nice tall glass...mix this drink...find a porch with a cool breeze. Ahhhh!

Double "Gin" Tonic

Fill tall glass with ice.  
1 ½ oz Bombay Sapphire gin (or your fave) 
5 oz real ginger ale like Reed's 
½ oz fresh lemon or lime juice  
Garnish with a lime wedge

And, if you really want to spice things up, go for a Triple "Gin". Add a sprinkle or two of the crystallized ginger chips pictured. Spicy little balls of fire. They are at some specialty shops, Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma. If you can't find them, just add in a thin slice of regular crystallized ginger. Sassy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?"

Note: If you choose to do nothing for yourself with this post's info, please consider doing something for the health of our beautiful young men, women and children!!

This is the provocative question asked in two books I read recently. When I first began this blog it was right after Dad died and it was a way for me to record what was going on...the loss, the fear I would also lose my ailing mom and brother, the sense of overwhelm from lots of travel and being "promoted solita" to chief cook, bottle washer and executor in the family, the delicate balance between the role of being both "child and mom" to mom and caring for my own family. Everything. Whatever storms of chaos swirl around me, writing gives me great peace, especially when I can weave together a story of my passions....people, food, and discoveries.

From writing just a few thoughts a month to now about five a week, my ideas for "finding peace" have exploded and thanks to a couple of readers who are way ahead of me, I added a new leaf  to OGT a couple of months ago called "Dressing Table Beauty Bites". I wanted to share healthy skin and body care "foods" I had found outside the normal ones I use every day, which I assumed were the very best.

Many of you have asked about this campaign logo on my sidebar. My dad always said assumptions were "the mother of all *****up's". You insert your expletive of choice. Boy, are they ever. I have known about the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics since it started up in 2004, founded by the Breast Cancer Fund and 9 other organizations. I even looked up the product lines I use but didn't pay a whole lot of attention to what I was reading because I believed in the companies whose products I bought. Like many other companies, in their trademark are the words "pure" and "safe" and so on...others use "natural". So be it, I thought.

Funny thing because I have learned not to assume anything about my food. I want what I want and I want transparency. If it is me. Better yet, show me twice with a secondary seal of approval from other organic certifiers like the Oregon Tilth or QAI. If it is local, how is it grown? I eat only whole, plant-based foods and no processed ones and so I can do this pretty easily and be at peace with how I decide to feed my body and spend my money.

One of the books I read recently was this one: 

It explains the how the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics started, why it is such a critical step forward for the health of all men, women and children (oh, our children... our TEENS!!!) and gives you the tools to do something with the information.

There is database that you can plug either your company or its ingredients into and the products will receive a hazard score. You can also check to see which companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics which is a pledge of transparency, a pledge to examine products for toxins, to replace any toxins with safer ingredients and to be held accountable. 500 companies started out as signers. Now, there are over 1300 and many that should have stepped up to the plate first, are absent or weirdly late on board. What deeply saddens me are the companies that market on "safe", "pure" "organic" whatever trademarked words they choose, but are not signers. Words are free and a free for all. And, they are what hooked an assumer like me on a trademark, not the truth.

Now, on a mission to make sure what I eat through my skin is as wholesome as what's on my term...this is what I expect from my skincare and other body care goodies. Show me your hazard score. Be a signer of the CompactBe compliant. Then, I decide whether that company is good enough to give my body and my money to. After all, it is food...and like Sally Field says, "I have this one life, this one body".

A special thanks to gal pal SWH for sharing this particular adventure with me. Because of her insistence "Dig deeper!", we have made some wonderful discoveries. Our mission is to lower our use of toxic "stuff" that goes in our bodies either through food or skin food. We aim to lower our "body burden" as low as it can go and be at peace that we have made the very best choices from what is available. And, that's what we are hunting down, the very best, with scores to prove it. 

And, now that I have this information, this is what I am going to do with it...

Open the box I just got and use our newest toxin-free discovery. Think I'll go wash my face... I love this stuff!!

And, there is plenty inside to share with YOU! Just let me know what you want to do with this information and I will link you up.

For one of many recent news articles about pending legislation, here is a link:

And then, here is this heartwrenching shocker...7????

And here is the link for the Compact signers, Skin Deep database and more:

If you are on this mission, too, please join us!!! Email me and let's have some good, clean fun.