Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BPA Free Pumpkin Pie

Yes folks, it is the moment you have been waiting for. Either the moment when you don't have to worry about eating plastic (BPA) pie, or when Maega goes over the deep end (that happened a while back......) to make pie making way harder than it usually is. Well- o.k. the trade off between the extra work for a chemically free pie is totally worth it. And, in my opinion, it does taste better.

The fly in the coffee for me wasn't the pumpkin in the can, it was the evaporated milk in the can. How does one go about evaporating milk? Hmmm. Then the "Pick Your Own" website saved the day. I was looking at their recipe for pumpkin pie and noticed that someone from Europe asked how they could make evaporated milk because it isn't sold there. DING DING DING DING!!! There was my answer. It turns out, adding dry milk to low fat milk = evaporated milk.

The new process:
Cook down pumpkin (a pie pumpkin)- you can buy these at the farmers market for like $1. I bought 2 just in case, but one medium sized pumpkin should suffice. I like to cut the pumpkin into like 4 - 8 pieces (after scraping the seeds/innards out and the stringy guys off the inside) and put them skin side up in a pot with a steamer basket. Watch the water level so you don't burn the pan. When done, the pumpkin should be soft. Get the meat out of the skin and you are ready to...
Mash pumpkin- this can happen in a blender, food processor, KA food grinder (my preferred tool). If the pumpkin has any standing liquid, you should strain it. Grab some cheese cloth or something similar and tie it up in your fridge over a bowl over night. I did this for most of the pumpkin, and I froze a ton of it (in glass- not plastic). It keeps up to a year. If there isn't any liquid you are good to go.

Make pie!
You can follow the same recipe just as you would with canned pumpkin. Don't forget to use equal parts low fat milk to dry milk (whisked together) to sub the evap. milk.

Viola! BPA free pie you can feel good about. Or you can say that you were sucked into Maega Enthusiasm's propaganda against the EVIL BPA makers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fab(ulous)ric Napkins- Not Just For Fancy Pants’ Anymore

I am always on the quest for more "green" ways of living. As long as it fits into my lifestyle that is. I find that if I can't sustain a practice because either the people in my household wont or it is too many more steps or $$ then I will abandon the idea. However! One idea that I found really fun and intriguing was making fabric napkins. Ooops- I meant fabulous fabric napkins.

One of my BFF's was recounting her weekend to me and showed me some napkins that she had made along with her mom, and my envious meter shot through the roof. I was all "I want some" instantly. She said that it is great because they are affordable to make. You don't worry about them getting dirty and then throw them in the wash with the rest of your laundry and viola- more clean napkins. I was ALL over that- picture white on rice- that was me. The only problem is that the last time I used my sewing machine I wanted to throw it against the wall. I read the manual and then tried it myself and what I ended up with was a frustration headache. So there was my dilemma. Then, this is one of the reasons why I love my BFF, she says to me "do you want to go over to my mom's and we can teach you how to make them?" Well, I was like white on rice again folks- all over that.

Here are our beloved creations:

My hubby seems to be totally cool with it. He doesn't do the laundry, and also thinks that the tiny square of a paper napkin is insufficient, so likes the size and durability. I did laundry right before we made these and that was probably 2 weeks ago- wow, now you know how often I do laundry… and it is on the web. Hmm, oh well. We still have some napkins sitting in the drawer waiting for dinner. Ahhhhh- sweet easy green-ness. P.s. It makes dinner just a little more fun too- in a fancy way : )

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Exciting = Satisfaction

I receive this cute little newsletter from (a cutesy post-wedding website) that gives tips for relationships, features newlyweds and a lot of other stuff. In one article (7/15/09) about keeping the flame alive in your relationship, there was a study quoted from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It was about doing activities that were highly exciting and moderately comfortable and how psychologists found that there was much more satisfaction in that than doing activities that were highly pleasant and moderately exciting.
This article was timely for me, as I was starting to get sick of the same ole' routine every night and weekend. I truly think that I am a person who needs variety, after all, it is the spice of life right?
Today, I read on the Happiness Project blog that novelty and challenge bring happiness. I think the stars have aligned and a theme is emerging from all of this! Are people stuck in doing boring things that they are comfortable with?

Take that Challenge
I started to realize that I love challenges when Mike and I renovated our kitchen last Spring. Through all the hard work and frustration, I realized that I felt smart, independent and alive. This made me really happy. I love coming home to my kitchen, not only because it looks so much better, but because it reminds me of the challenge I overcame.

I'm not suggesting going home tonight and ripping your kitchen apart, but even switching up the routine night after night can be really stimulating. Just last Tuesday I went to a book signing for a bread book (Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes A Day) that my girlfriend gave to me (she is the book queen: her blog is bookish bent). It was awkward for me to go and ask questions to these people who seemed like they are bread god's, but it was fascinating to see them in real life and talk to them about their intentions. It brought a depth to the book that I wouldn't have had before. And it has pretty signatures in it now too : ) However, I sacrificed staying in my cozy home on a cold dark night, I even sacrificed eating dinner at the normal time. But I felt so awake and refreshed after going. I learned something new.
I believe that learning is so important to our happiness. Part of learning is breaking out of what we are used to and experiencing something new. Most of us learn when we are challenged.

Take Care
Something to consider though, when planning your next exciting adventure, or many little adventures, is to make sure you have time to decompress. Especially if you are planning a big event. After the kitchen, I needed to not do any home projects for at least 3 months. Even though I am desperate to finish the basement, I know that I needed to brew some more energy before jumping into that project.

So have you been thinking about something that you want to do, that you haven’t before? Go for it! Your life satisfaction index will get a nice boost.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cheers to Learning

I've been thinking about learning a lot lately, seeing as I am supposed to help people do this thing called learning. So I was looking into good quotes about learning and found some great ones. I though I'd share:

•Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. ~Chinese Proverb

•All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind. ~Martin H. Fischer

•Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

•Learning is not a spectator sport. - D. Blocher

•Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself. ~Vilfredo Pareto

•It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it. ~Jacob Bronowski

•The biggest enemy to learning is the talking teacher. - John Holt

•When you know something, say what you know. When you don't know something, say that you don't know. That is knowledge." - Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius)

•What I hear, I forget.

What I see, I remember.

What I do, I understand.

- Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius)

•A lot of people have gone farther that they thought they could because someone else thought they could. ~Anonymous

•To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.

•When the student is ready, the master appears. ~Buddhist Proverb

•I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. ~Abraham Lincoln

•I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. ~Winston Churchill

•Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. ~Vernon Howard

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

BPA Update

It looks like some lobbying took a foothold with the FDA. After further review of the scientific studies, the FDA now recognizes exposure of infants and children to BPA is of “some concern.” There is no federal ban yet on BPA, however. There are statewide regulations for infants and children's food consumption containers put in place (and have been in place for a while) including Minnesota. Unfortunately this doesn't reach all products though.

Here is a link for the article.
Here is a link for the article "Fed up with BPA in your food?" There are some interesting and simple ways to cut down.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Positively Fermented

I have been wanting to ferment my own foods lately. It all started when I didn't know how to get a sourdough starter and didn't want to pay for one. I was all "WHY do people say I have to get a starter- it had to have been started somewhere!!!" Then I read an article in the MPLS Star & Trib that featured a writer and his book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It talks of all the benefits of fermenting foods and gives a plethora of great recipes.

Fermenting in Benefits
  • One major benefit of fermenting is that it preserves food. The fermenting organisms produce alcohol, lactic acid and acetic acid all bio-preservatives retain nutrients and prevent spoilage.
  • Captain James Cook prevented his ship crew from dying from scurvy with fermented sauerkraut. 60 barrels of kraut lasted 27 months and no one developed scurvy.
  • Fermenting preserves nutrients, it breaks them down into more digestible forms. Many folks who are lactose intolerant can eat fermented dairy, like yogurt or kefir because the fermentation process basically "digests" part of it before it gets to you. The fermentation process breaks down the lactose into a simpler form- cool huh!
  • It also creates new nutrients. Cultures create B vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and biotin.
  • Eating fermented foods is an incredibly healthy practice, directly supplying your digestive tract with living cultures essential to breaking down food and assimilating nutrients.
  • Medical studies have identified specific anti-cancer and other disease preventing properties in fermented foods check out The Life Bridge: the way to longevity with probiotic nutrients.
The Overpasteurization Debate
It is so interesting what our government considers to be safe. *Warning* I am somewhat a non-truster of the FDA and second guess some of their decisions, so read on with that in mind.
There are studies "out there" that have looked into the overpasteurizing of foods. Basically meaning they require that our food is too "clean." Clean by FDA standards that is, which in my opinion is really questionable. Yogurt is one example of this. There are so many beautiful cultures that live in properly fermented yogurt, and the overpasteurizing of them kills some of those nutrients. Now- of you are like I was, you're all "HEY- I'm not eating dirty food." But stay with me- there are levels of pasteurizing milk. Essentially, the milk is heated and there are different levels of heating it. Did you ever notice milk that doesn't expire for like 3 months? That is VERY pasteurized milk. There are less nutrients in it because many of them were killed during the heating process. The same goes for yogurt. So when looking at yogurt in the store- look for something that says live active cultures and you will know that you are eating good stuff maynard.

Yum For Your Tum

WOW- bad heading. Sorry 'bout that. But you should know that cultures are SOOO good for your digestive tract. I bet you got that from above. So I wanted to add a section about kefir, a milk based drink. The creation of kefir is different from milk, it uses actual little kefir grains, that look like big tapioca's stuck together. So this kefir has different cultures than yogurt and may even be easier for the lactose intolerant to handle. The cultures in kefir are said to give amazing benefits to us by working really well with our intestines. Keeping things clean and running well- need I say more? If we consume it on a regular basis our systems will benefit greatly. Also, eating fermented foods can really help the immune system.

My Fermented Future
I would like to try to make kefir, I'm going to the Mississippi Market soon to purchase my kefir grains. I also will be trying to make yogurt, and ranch dressing from yogurt. I have made a sourdough bread starter and baked my first loaf with it last night. I have some perfecting to do, but it is yummy : )

Fermenting Your Future?

If you don't want to make it- buy it. You can find fermented foods at any store, here is a list of some great ones:
  • Sauerkraut
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Herring
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Miso
  • Pickles (many types)
  • Cheese

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Farmers Market

O-M-Gdnss. How I love the Farmers Market.

Picture this. Sunny summer morning, about 11:30. My lovely co-workerfriend says “Dude! Walk?” which on a Tuesday or Thursday could mean the farmers market. We head out, the breeze has a coolness that smells refreshing. The sun warms the AC air off my arms and face. As we head into the heart of DT St. Paul, we pass the State of MN office buildings with a feeling of belonging to something larger than we are, and then we pass the historic churches made from big red blocks and an even bigger feeling surrounds us.

Passersby have smiles of being out in the air and sun and we joke as we climb the hill towards Wabasha Avenue. You know you’ve arrived at the market because the smell of street food alerts your nose, and if you like hot dogs, your stomach. People are swaying in and out looking over the flowers and produce like eager kids. We do the scope- walk all the way down the aisle between the booths, eyeing all the goods, then, we swing back and purchase things like ruby red tomatoes and enthusiastic flowers.

When we head back to the office to eat lunch, we know that the day is half over, and the happiness that the walk to the farmers market brought will last even longer than the rest of the work day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Green with Enthusiasm

I am very obsessed with the color green right now. Really. For about 2 years, I have been more and more drawn to a limey fresh green hue- peridot to be specific. To the point that I want everything to be this green. My jewelry, tape dispenser, the new tile in my kitchen, my screen saver... Must I go on? I even love looking into my cat's eyes becuase they are such a pretty green.

I have collaged some of my green posessions and things I like in this post. A lot of it is from my office, becuase I think being around this color makes me happy.

I can hypothisize why I love this color- and dream up ideas, but I think there is something about the way color effects us. I looked it up and the physical and mental effects of green are:

* Soothing

* Relaxing mentally as well as physically

* Helps alleviate depression, nervousness and anxiety

* Offers a sense of renewal, self-control and harmony

I agree with the above. I always feel fresh and relaxed around this color. It is even a little invigorating to me.

The website I found this info from is It has some interesting information. I think our culture downplays how visual we are as humans, and that we are effected by what we look at. When considering how much power we have over our moods- color being part of that, why not surround ourselves with things that can actully help us feel good?

Well, I'm going to finish my green tea and ponder this. I want to hear about your favorite color experience: What is your favorite color? Does it have a ceartain effect on you?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Plastics Update

Addendum to my plastics post from 6/30/09:

After some random research I found that plastic #6 isn't safe after all =(

"#6: Polystyrene is a concern because the chemical styrene can leach into food and beverages. According to the EPA, short-term styrene exposure at levels above the Maximum Contaminant Level (used to set drinking-water standards) can cause nervous-system effects such as loss of concentration, weakness, and nausea. Long-term exposure can cause liver and nerve damage and cancer." Found from the Common Ground website, confirmed from other research studies found on the web.

The good news is that #5pp is a safe choice as well. I have read that #5 can contain BPA, but not #5pp.

So, I'll be sticking to 1, 2, 4 & 5pp for now! But remember- never heat in plastic- only store food in it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Are we becoming more like Barbie and Ken?

I've been known to be a little obsessive about staying healthy. There is something scary about preventable things happening to my body, like getting serious illnesses from ingesting things, or like getting Lyme disease from a deer tick. Scary weird things like that. Sometimes we just don't have the knowledge or exposure to know what could happen- and sometimes our culture isn't quite honest about products and what can happen to you if you use them.
When I read that certain plastics used for food/beverages are stored in our bodies and can have harmful effects on you and your offspring, I was alarmed. You mean, plastic- the stuff that we heat/freeze/store everything in is harmful? Even most of the food we buy is in plastic. WOW.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used to strengthen plastic containers and line metal bottles and cans. It has been used for the last 60 years and is in a lot of our common products. I first read about this in the Good Housekeeping mag, the article is titled “Is It Safe to Heat Food in Plastic?.” There was an article questioning the safety of plastic, and it caught my eye! This article said that there are two main chemicals that can make us and our offspring sick, BPA and phthalates (pronounced Thay-lates).
After reading the article I decided to see if I could find more than what a magazine was reporting, and boy did I find a lot! You see- after being a MAJOR debate nerd in HS I have had this need to research everything that intrigues me. Well, needless to say- this was very intriguing.

So, BPA is a pretty widely used. It has been used in pretty much most of the #7 plastics, (look on the bottom of a plastic container, it should have a number on it, If it has a #7 on it, it probably contains BPA). Also, some#3’s and #5’s contain BPA as well. BPA is in the lining of almost all canned foods, there is only one food company; Eden Foods Canned Beans that I have found to have BPA free canned goods. BPA is in other household items like CD’s some children’s toys etc. The main concern is for it to leach into our foods and stay in our bodies. The effects of BPA are constantly being argued, and pay attention to the source of your research if you look this stuff up. There are many companies that support certain products based on their financial investment. Based on pure scientific research, you will find that the main concerns are adverse effects on the brain, male and female reproductive systems, and diabetes. It may also be related to cancer or even obesity and heart disease. There isn’t an immediate reaction to this chemical, it accumulates over time in our bodies. The greatest sensitivity to bisphenol A occurs in-utero and infant development. ACK! This sucks!

Onto the next devil plastic chemical…

Phthalates, known as “plasticizers,” are a grouping of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible. They are found in toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo, as well as other products. Phthalates can be "endocrine disruptors" because they copy hormones in the body and have shown in lab tests to cause reproductive and neurological damage. So if someone says to you, “why are you trying to bite your elbow??” you know that you may have used too much plastic wrap. Sorry, I had to throw a joke in there, you started to have that scared depressed look!

What to Do??
I know we can’t turn our world upside down and go back in time to prevent our bodies from becoming plastic-y, and this stuff is pretty scary. But, you do have control and a little more knowledge now. You can make choices in your future to help curb the intake of these devil chemicals. And- feel good about it at the same time. If you have kids- or will, you can also feel good that you are armed with this knowledge.

Here are some tips for identifying products that have, or are likely to have, phthalates or BPA. These are the things that I have introduced into my daily living habits.

1. Choose foods in plastics with the recycling code 1, 2, 4 or 6. Recycling codes 3, 5 and 7 are more likely to contain BPA or phthalates. My mantra for plastic is “Even Steven, and #1 are good.”

2. Don’t eat anything canned, unless the can reads “BPA Free.”

3. Transport and heat your food in glass never plastic; never ever in styrofoam (don’t use the plastic covers of glass containers either). I save glass jars from bullion for yogurt, jam jars for milk and apples etc.

4. Buy refillable water bottles that aren’t plastic, or lined with BPA. Many companies are marketing their products to this concern now.

5. Read the ingredients. According to the organization Pollution in People, you can identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names, or abbreviations:
-DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
-DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.

-DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant).

6. Be wary of the term "fragrance," which is used to denote a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates, which are a subject of recent concern because of studies showing they can mimic certain hormones.

The real question is, are we plastic now??

The answer, no. But, if your big toe slowly starts looking like Barbie’s, all hard and connected to the rest of your toes, maybe you should start to worry. Or, you could just buy the Pink Malibu Convertible and go with it.
This is purely for your information, not intended for you to become a worry wart. I’ll do that job for you. My philosophy about these things is to arm yourself with knowledge, do the best you can, and then forget about it. Go on enjoying life because you know you are taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

Some sources for you:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm Sad About Pop Cans

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that there is BPA in pop cans, but my less-conscious didn't let it register until now. It is just crazy how many of our highly used food items contain this chemical.

I also came across a website that gives a little hope. Join it if you want to support the end of BPA in cans.