Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Venus Williams, what are you thinking?

Its tennis time again. It has been going on for a couple of days now and I could not be more excited. I got to see my favorite tennis player in action, Rafael Nadal, and he looked like he was back to his old self, pre injuries.

Well, today I was watching tennis and Venus Williams was playing. Well actually its going on right now and her outfit is so crazy I had to take my attention away from my favorite sport to blog about it. Now I had seen pictures of it a couple of days ago, but seeing her with this outfit on while she is words to describe it. I am sorry I missed her first match because the commentators are not commenting on it and I wonder if they are just trying to ignore it or if all the comments are over. It is so distracting. But it is taking my mind off of her semi lackluster performance.

What is that lingerie? How much money does she have for a clothing allowance? And this is what she chooses. Where are her people to tell you "umm no honey, uh uh. Not this time. Keep it in the bedroom"?

Are parts of this outfit see through? Has she not seen what other tennis players where?

Oh, and here is the money shot....
Is that her ass? Nope. It is her flesh colored bloomers. WHO DOES THAT? Of the Williams sister, Venus is my favorite. But I think she needs a real friend to tell her this was a HUGE mistake.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#28: Read 100 Books

I love Harlan Coben. I love his writing style, his wit, his characters. He has a series based on a character Myron Bolitar and I have read every one of those books. Caught is not part of the Myron Bolitar series, which made me a little skeptical (I have been let down by other authors in the past), but I decided to give it a chance. It meshes two very different stories and somehow he does it wonderfully. One story is straight from the show To Catch a Predator and the other involves successful men hiding a terrible secret. And somehow he finds a way to intertwine these two stories. Also, some of the characters from the Myron Bolitar series make cameo appearances. A fun, easy book to read. I recommend.

#27: Read 50 Non-crime books

I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This book journeys the story of a family that moves to Virginia and decides to eat locally and in season for an entire year. I admired there level of commitment to eating locally. It inspired me to do better in my own life. Some of the book made me a little jealous. Like they had tons of space to make their own garden and grew a wide variety of food. Most of the food they ate during the year came from their own garden. Also, they live in a community that supports local eating. Their neighbors have their own garden or farms. They also had a large farmers market community. I don't live too far from Virginia, but I do not feel the same community to local living here. I was also jealous of the amount of storage space they had to save for the winter. Part of my issue with being able to do this is I do not have the space.

The book also has a ton of recipes specific to the season. The recipes and more information can be found on their website. The sounded so yummy and when I get a chance I plan on making some of them.

This is definitely a book to read if you want to know more about how to eat in season and the vast benefits of doing so. And since this is educating myself on green living it also covers #4 on my 101 in 1001 list.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More reasons to eat ORGANIC

Recently I posted about pesticides on fruits and vegetables and the ones that are the worst (The Dirty Dozen). Now there are even more reasons to eat organic fruits and vegetables. A new study in the journal Pediatrics associated pesticides, specifically organophosphates, to cases of ADHD in the US and Canada. Research is suggesting that exposure to these pesticides along with other environmental contributors may be contributing to attention problems in children. In a study of 1100 children aged 8 to 15, those with the highest levels of dialkyl phosphates (a breakdown component of organophosphates) had the highest incidence of ADHD. It is already known that children that work on farms and near pesticides have more neurological problems, but this study is just from regular kids with no added exposure risk.

Does this mean that there is a definitive link? Does this mean that the pesticides are causing ADHD? No. Even the author of the research stresses that this is only an association. However, in my opinion, an association to this degree means more research needs to be done. This research SHOULD have been done PRIOR to allowing these pesticides in the US food supply.

So does organic produce cost more? Yes. But what will the price be for the potential added healthcare costs?

Read the TIME article here.

And now you know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

#22: Make 10 New Recipes

Salmon Pesto Pasta

Since we enjoyed the last recipe I got from this blog, I wasted no time in trying another. And it looked pretty easy to make.

  • 8 ounces pasta (I used penne)
  • 12 ounces salmon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup pesto (recipe below)
  • grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. When water is boiling, add a teaspoon of salt and the pasta; stir to separate. Cook pasta until al dente; drain. Pour evaporated milk into empty pot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Add cooked pasta to pot and stir to combine.
  2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil. Season skinless side of salmon liberally with salt and pepper, sprinkle with zest, then rub with olive oil. Broil until salmon is no longer translucent and if firm when pressed, about 10 minutes. Remove from broiler and sprinkle with lemon juice. Use fork to flake into bite-sized pieces. Skin will stick to foil and can be discarded.
  3. Add salmon to pasta mixture and stir over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and stir in pesto. Top with Parmesan cheese.

For my recipe I used prepared pesto. My feeling is that until I know the recipe is good, I do not want to spend too much time on it. So if this is added into the rotation, I may decide to make pesto from scratch. Until then, that's ok. Plus I do not have a food processor. I could probably use a blender though. But for those that choose to here is how you do it.

Makes 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, Italian (optional)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Toast pine nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.
  2. Add the unpeeled garlic to empty skillet and toast until fragrant, shaking the pan occasionally, and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool, then peel and add to food processor bowl.
  3. Place basil and parsley in heavy-duty, quart-size, zipper-lock bag; pound with flat side of meat pounder until all leaves are bruised.
  4. Process nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients except cheese; process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down with flexible spatula.
  5. Transfer mixture to small bowl, stir in cheese and adjust salt. (Can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap and placed directly over the surface or filmed with oil and refrigerated up to 5 days.)
Notes: I used a pound of salmon. We really like salmon, so the more the better. As mentioned above, I used prepared pesto. Oh, and I always add more cheese than the recipe says. I just can't get enough of it.

Verdict: Well, this recipe combined all things that I love, pasta, pesto, and salmon...oh, and don't forget cheese. So off the bat I knew it was going to be yummy. And it was. Now we will just have to see how the Hubs feels about it.

The Hubs' Verdict: He loved it too. Yeah. We actually were fighting over who got the leftovers. I definitely will be making this again...very soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

#22: 10 New Recipes

Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips

Before I get started on the recipe, I am a messy cook. OMG, it is ridiculous. I make the biggest messes. Food is dropped on the stove, the counters, the floor, everywhere. I usually have to sweep the floor after cooking. I think part of the reason is my novice kitchen, but that is another issue.

So on to the recipe. And this was adapted from Cooks Illustrated, which is obviously for more skilled chefs than I, but it has garlic in the title so it is worth trying.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced or pressed through a garlic press (1 tablespoon) Example 1: sophistication, garlic press really
  • Table salt
  • 1 medium onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 14 cups kale (loosely packed) or collard greens (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), thick stems trimmed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 13 1/4 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus additional for serving
  • ground black pepper
Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt. (Ok, really, am I supposed to know what kind of saute pan I have. And honestly does it really matter.)

Add onion to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add half of greens to pan; using tongs (which I do not have and realize I need), toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining greens, broth, and 3/4 teaspoon salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. (What does that mean?) Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes (mixture will be somewhat soupy). Stir in beans, olives, and tomatoes.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven (what that what? can't you just use a pot? well I did and it worked fine.) over high heat. Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, passing garlic chips, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan separately. (You should start the pasta at the beginning of preparation.)

  • I used spinach instead of kale or collards. I used 2 10 ounce packages of spinach. I don't know what it equaled loosely packed, but it is resulted in plenty of spinach for the recipe.
  • I used vegetable broth instead of chicken.
  • I used 28 ounces of 14 and I am glad I did. The Hubs always complains about pasta that is not "saucy" as he calls it. So hopefully this will be enough.
  • I did not use the kalamata olives. I love them, but the Hubs is not a big fan, so to make it easy I left it out. I did not miss them in the recipe.
  • I did not have to add any salt and pepper for taste in the end. It was full of flavor.

I loved this recipe. It was so yummy. The mixture of beans, spinach, tomatoes, and yum garlic was delicious. Add some Parmesan cheese and the garlic chips on top and this is a bomb diggity meal. I just hope the Hubs loves it as much because I definitely want to add this to our regular rotation. I am glad it was serve immediately because I was starving. Hopefully it will taste just as good heated up.

Updated with the Hubs' reaction: He loved it too. Yeah. He ate dinner after I did and I was sitting watching tv while he was eating. He was making all these sounds, like, mmm, he must have thought it was good. Definitely adding this to the list of repeats.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

GMOs and Why You Should Avoid Them

What is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?

In my previous post on deciphering produce codes, I discussed briefly how 5-digit codes beginning with 8 should be avoided at all costs. These items are genetically modified and here is why they should be avoided.

Genetic engineering or genetic modification (GM) of food involves the laboratory process of artificially inserting genes into the DNA of crops and animals. The resulting product is a genetically modified organism (GMO).

Scientists engineer certain crops so that pesticides are built-in to every cell. So when an insect bites the plant, the pesticide splits open their stomachs and kills them. What crops can be genetically modified? Well, anything really, but the ones being focused on now are soy, corn, canola, cotton, and sugar. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide Bt, from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, is a safe because it has a history of use by organic farmers and it has been used as a natural insect repellent. However, the Bt-toxin found in GMOs is thousands of times more concentrated than the natural spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the natural spray cannot be washed off. Another GMO is engineering crops to be able to withstand Roundup, the weedkiller. So farmers can spray the crops with tons of Roundup and it will kill the weeds, but not the crops. Moreover, studies have shown that Bt even in lower doses found in the natural spray can be harmful.
  • Bt is extremely similar to two other bacteria, B. cereus, which causes food poisoning, and B. anthracis, which causes anthrax. That's right, ANTHRAX. It is so similar to both of these it cannot be distinguished without sophisticated testing.
  • Bt secretes many of the same toxins as B. cereus when growing. That's the one that causes food poisoning. There is also mounting evidence that the spores can germinate in humans and live for extended periods of time in the respiratory gastrointestinal tract. But because they are so similar, individuals who have gotten sick may have had it attributed to B. cereus when it was really Bt.
  • REMEMBER DDT, for 30 years it was purported as a safe pesticide and extremely safe for humans. These same studies have been done on Bt. How long will it take for it to be banned?
Many studies have shown GMOs to be harmful to your health. Doctors are prescribing non-GMO diets to patients with allergies, infertility, immune problems, and a host of other issues. A position paper by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that "several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM foods." The results are ALARMING. Some examples:
  • When female rats were feed GM soy, most of their babies died - as opposed to 10% of rats feed natural soy. For the babies that survived, they were smaller and had problems getting pregnant in the future.
  • When male rats ate GM soy, their testicles changed color. (yep, that's right.) They had altered sperm. Even the embryos of GM feed mice had significant changes in their DNA.
  • In the US, 2 dozen farmers reported that thousands of pigs feed GM corn became sterile. Some had false pregnancies and others gave birth to sacs of water. Cows and bulls became infertile when fed the same corn.
What does this mean for you?

Studies are done on rats and other animals to determine the effect that they will have on humans. GM products caused infertility, altered sperm, and GIVING BIRTH TO SACS OF WATER. Not only does this affect the person or animal eating it, it affects their embryos. That also means that if the animals you eat are feed GM food, it is getting into your system and being passed on to you offspring. YES, it is that bad.

So what can you do?
  1. Eat organic, especially where the above mentioned foods are concerned.
  2. Read ingredients.
  3. Stay informed. Everyday biotech companies are trying to add food to the list of GMOs. They are also legislating to Congress to try to lift restrictions on GMOs. Like, they do not want to have to label produce as a GMO. You can make a change with your vote.
There is a helpful shopping guide that lists GMO-free foods by category and brand from baby formula to candy. It will definitely surprise you and make you a little sad. It can be found as an app for your iPhone or iPod touch or be downloaded and printed as a shopping guide.

My nestie friend SuperGreen made this convenient booklet. The info can be printed here and bound like this. She got it laminated and printed at Kinkos. All photos are from SuperGreen.

Thanks to my nestie friend SuperGreen for this info and pointing me in the right direction.
More info can be found here and here.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has a wealth of information.

Hair Comparison

So the other day I looked at some photos of our At Home Reception for our wedding. That was August of last year. I didn't realize how much my hair had grown. I guess when you see it every day it is hard to tell. Then last Saturday I saw some people I hadn't seen in a while and they all commented on how long my hair was getting. So I thought...time for a photo comparison.

August 2009

May 2010

I have also been thinking about dyeing my hair. The Hubs is against this because the last time I dyed my hair i chopped it all off. The color was too different from my natural hair color and it grew so fast, I just couldn't maintain it. I am thinking about henna'ing (is that a word) my hair. I am a little afraid. I don't know what the results will be and it is permanent. It would put a reddish tint on my hair, but I don't know how obvious it would be. I have brown hair and I have seen some of the results on other natural people and the color barely shown. They mostly do it for the benefits to the hair. But what if the color does show, what if it is uneven, what if I hate it?

Here are some close ups of my actual natural hair color

When I look at these I think, what color is my hair? And I think it is actually pretty. But because it is this sandy brown color it can appear dull sometimes. So I will keep doing research on henna and hair and maybe I will make a decision on that subject. I do know that I will not be using any conventional dyes on my hair ever, so its either henna or nothing.

I must say, I am impressed with the growth i have seen in less than a year. I guess taking care of your hair can really make a difference ;)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Deciphering Produce Codes

I just posted a link to the new list of pesticides in produce. So, how do you know if a fruit or vegetable is organic. There is actually a very easy way to determine that just by looking at it. The price look-up (PLU) code. The PLU code is an international numbering system that identifies each produce item so that cash registers can ring them up automatically.

A 4-digit number indicates CONVENTIONALLY GROWN produce. These products use regular pesticides approved by the FDA, but not necessarily the best thing for you. (That is my opinion).

A 5-digit number beginning with a 9 indicates ORGANIC produce.

A 5-digit number beginning with an 8 indicates GENETICALLY MODIFIED produce. In a nutshell, STAY AWAY from this type of produce. I will go into more detail about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in another post, but basically STAY AWAY.

For example, Pink Lady Apples (one of my favs) have the PLU code 4128. An organic Pink Lady apple would be 94128 (these are the ones I buy). A genetically modified Pink Lady apple would be 84128. Got it? Good.

Why is this important? I have been in stores that have a big sign reading ORGANIC PRODUCE. Then I look at it and it has a 4-digit number. This means it is conventionally grown. Is it harmful to you? Maybe, maybe not. But if your intention is to purchase organic, don't you want to make sure that is what you are buying?

I do. And from knowing these 3 simple rules I can always decipher the code.

Shopper's Guide to Pesticides

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has updated their list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 for produce. The old list can be found here and there are some significant changes. I received a preview of the list (it will not be officially posted until May 10), so I am giving it to my few blog readers.

Celery has beat peaches as the most pesticide ridden produce....way to go celery. AND blueberries were added to the dirty dozen. Take a look at the entire list here. This site also explains how the list is determined.

It is also a guide for the budget conscious, like myself. I cannot afford to buy everything organic, but if it is one of the dirty dozen I make sure I do. I save my money on the clean 15.

Hope this helps people make wise and green decisions. Happy and Healthy Eating.