Cooking Chicken 3

I haven’t written a post about cooking meat for nearly two months, which means it’s about time for another one. My first two chicken recipe posts are here (marinating) and here (no marinating). I’ve collected some more tasty-sounding, reasonably healthy and natural chicken recipes, so here we go.

Salsa Chicken Taquitos - Hooray for corn tortillas and for baking, not frying! I would use full-fat cream cheese, because it’s what I do. Includes directions for crock pot chicken cooking, if you’re a crock pot person. I think guacamole would be an excellent addition to this recipe (as a dip).

Mahogany Chicken Burritos with Smoky Yam Puree and Cilantro Chimichurri – This recipe sounds SO good. I like that it includes unusual ingredients (unusual for burritos) like hoisin sauce (love of my duck-eating life) and yams.

Husband’s Favorite Chili Verde (author’s husband, not mine) - White bean chicken soup, basically. Includes chicken stock which I advocate making at home.

Red Curry Coconut Noodles – Can’t go wrong with coconut milk and (homemade) chicken stock. Calls for rice noodles, but you could probably use the noodles of your choice.

Chicken Tikka Masala – I would probably use coconut milk in place of heavy cream and coconut oil or unrefined peanut oil in place of the vegetable oil. Calls for making a sauce separately from baking the yogurt-covered chicken.

Indian Butter Chicken – Pleasantly short, simple ingredients list which includes (homemade) chicken stock, (whole fat) sour cream, and (whole milk) yogurt. Since it is butter chicken, I would probably use butter for the tablespoon of oil.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce – I do love peanut sauce. For the oil, I would use unrefined peanut oil. Says not to use natural peanut butter, but doesn’t give a reason, so I’d try it natural peanut butter to see what happens. Calls for low-sodium soy sauce, which I don’t know much about. Is it just diluted with water? If it is, then I would just dilute regular soy sauce with water. Says to grill the chicken, but we don’t have a grill. I bet I could just saute the chicken.

Chicken Piccata – I would use butter instead of olive oil. Calls for chicken stock in the sauce. Use pasta of your choice. (I keep meaning to try buckwheat/soba noodles, but haven’t gotten around to it.)

In review, probably the best way (in terms of health and economy) to buy chicken is whole, free range, and organic. Here are two helpful links explaining how to cut up a whole chicken: one and two.

The end!

Up next: Difficult to say. Haven’t decided yet.

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Gabriel Mascara Review

Once upon a time long long ago (4 and 1/2 months ago), I listed low hazard score mascaras for you. (Hazard scores calculated by the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database). At the time, I was using and liked Physician’s Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin Mascara (nearly-low hazard score of 3, $10/tube). Since then, I’ve tried Gabriel Mascara, and I like it much better in comparison (low hazard score of 2, $15/tube).

Tube of Gabriel Black-Brown Mascara

The Physician’s Formula Organic Wear mascara flaked, which irritated my eyes (especially because I wear contact lenses), but Gabriel Mascara doesn’t flake. Gabriel Mascara also has a better consistency – more liquid, less sticky. Obviously it dries from liquid to non-liquid once on my eye lashes (quickly, too), and then I’m good to go. It isn’t heavy or chunky or clumpy or anything else bad at all. It washes off with soap and water (or just water if you work at it), but it seems to be at least water-resistant (I can tear up or put eye-drops in without it running). The black-brown color works for me, if you know me. It’s a pretty light black-brown (maybe unusually light), but I like it on me. I also like the old-fashioned (bristly) brush on Gabriel Mascara much more than the new-fashioned (silicone?) brush on the Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Mascara.

Gabriel Black-Brown Mascara with Old-fashioned Brush

Short post today, because there isn’t much else to say. Gabriel Mascara is awesome and worth the price. My mom agrees. I bought mine (black-brown) at the vegetarian grocery store here in Hawaii; she bought hers (black) at Whole Foods in Texas.

  • Gabriel Mascara – 5 stars
  • Physicians Formula Organic Wear Mascara – 3 and 1/2 stars
The end!
Up next: More recipes! Category unknown, for now.
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Muffins and Cupcakes

Muffins are usually considered to be breakfast food, but they’re a little bit too sweet and usually lacking in nutritional value for everyday breakfast, so I’m moving them into the dessert category (where, in comparison to sugary frosted cupcakes, they pass nutritional tests nearly with flying colors). Without further ado, reasonably healthy dessert muffin (and cupcake) recipes.

Creamsicle MuffinsNix the glaze; they sound delicious enough without it. The sugar garnish is probably also unnecessary. Calls for whole wheat pastry flour, which I now know is sold under the Bob’s Red Mill brand name (and probably others, but that was the first one I found). I’d just use plain whole-milk yogurt since it’s the yogurt I usually have. Can’t really guess the flour to sugar ratio because there’s sugar in the orange juice.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins – I would use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Half whole wheat flour, half white flour, with a 2 to 1 ratio of flour to sugar. Sounds like it’s a little bit on the sweet side, but the first time I make it I’d make it as the recipe is written.

Almost Healthy Chocolate Zucchini MuffinsHalf whole wheat flour, half white flour. Nearly a 1 to 1 ratio of flour to sugar which isn’t ideal, but come on, chocolate muffins with a vegetable in them? Gotta try them at least once, when zucchinis are at their cheapest.

Spiced Maple Banana Muffins - Admirable 4 to 1 ratio of flour/cornmeal to sugar (half flour, half cornmeal), although I know there’s sugar in the bananas as well.

Mardi Gras King Cake Cupcakes – A yeasty cupcake almost more similar to a cinnamon roll than a cupcake. Normally I’d say no to frosting except for special occasions (I know, I know, I’m such a killjoy), but these cupcakes have so little sugar compared to flour (1/2 cup sugar vs. 5 and 1/2 cups flour) that I think the frosting is totally justified. Also I just love king cake, and any way I can get something like it is fine by me. :-) There is some extra sugar in the candied pecans (or in a pecans/brown sugar mixture) but I think it really wouldn’t be more than 1/2 cup extra sugar, which still puts the unfrosted flour to sugar ratio at an uncommonly low 5 to 1. All white flour, but c’est la vie, and laissez les bon temps rouler while you’re at it.

Via Cappucino Muffins – I would use butter instead of margarine. Flour to sugar ratio is 3 to 1, not counting the sugar in the chocolate chips (semisweet), which would probably bump the ratio to at least to 2 to 1. I would try them without the frosting (the author of the recipe even says, “These muffins are pretty sweet and caffeinated, so the icing is really just a much quicker way to send you into some kind of sugar or caffeine-induced coma. You don’t really need it”!). Also all white flour. Here is a photo-filled step-by-step version of this recipe.

Happy eating! The first three recipes are probably preferably because they have half or more whole wheat flour, but all of these recipes are decent healthier dessert recipes (healthier than most frosted cupcakes, for sure). Dessert, not breakfast! Just call me killjoy. In closing, my usual disclaimer: I use the word “healthier” with caution. Few desserts are really truly healthy, but I’m trying to share recipes for relatively healthier desserts.

The end!

Up next: A review for a safe, natural mascara.

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Shopping at Thrift Stores

I’ve already blogged about buying items Made in the U.S.A. and about spending money at truly local businesses. The third and last major way to shop in an economically and environmentally-friendly way is at thrift stores. And now, a blog post written by my awesome sister Sarah, who is more experienced in the ways of shopping at thrift stores than I am.

Thrifting– the how, why, when, and where.

A little about me: I don’t shop exclusively at thrift stores by any means, but I believe I could do 75% or more of my clothes shopping there if necessary. I work in a coffee shop now, so my clothes are pretty casual, but I’ve bought a number of nice dress skirts, tops, jackets, and even a suit at Goodwill over the last several years.

Why Shop at Thrift Stores?

What if you like shopping but you want to be eco-friendly and socially just? If you’re like me, you have all this guilt about buying things. As Emily has pointed out, you can get tons of eco-friendly products, like organic cotton t-shirts, and shoes made in the U.S. under fair labor practices. The thing is, you are still buying new stuff that takes resources to make.

This is why shopping at thrift stores is a wonderful option. If you shop at a place like Goodwill, not only are you stepping away from unsustainable production practices, you are also contributing to a charity, and giving jobs to local people who might not have them otherwise. You are taking part in the “reuse” and “reduce” segments of the recycling triangle at the same time— by reusing other people’s clothing and by reducing the amount of waste and environmental damage created by supporting unsustainable consumption of goods.

With Goodwill, you can have both quality AND quantity at the same time. This isn’t so great if you’re trying to live a minimalist lifestyle, but if you like having lots of high quality clothing options, or need to buy a bunch of clothes in a limited time period (new job, weight gain or loss, post-pregnancy body shape changes) without spending a huge amount of money, thrifting is for you.

How Do You Thrift Most Effectively?

Thrift stores can be overwhelmingly large for people who are used to shopping in smaller mall boutique stores. Where should you start? What should you look for?  My Edit (http://myedit.blogspot.com/) is a great resource for thrifting tips. However, I’ll talk about the four that are most useful to me, plus a bit of advice I’ve picked up along the way:

When you go in, make sure you have plenty of time. Eat before you go. Wear clothes that are easy to take on and off, and underwear that is neutral. Work your way through the store, rack by rack, without a whole lot of dawdling. If you aren’t sure, just put it in the cart and try it on.

First of all, buy good brands. There is no point in paying $4 for something at Goodwill that you can get new in a store for $8. For the most part, skip anything from Target, Old Navy, or Wal-Mart that you see in the thrift store, and concentrate on looking for brands that are good. As you look through the racks, look at the labels. If you aren’t sure what labels to look for, before you even set foot into a thrift store, walk around in a nice mall or department store that carries a lot of brands. This pre-thrifting research will help you understand prices and quality and whether or not you are being ripped off. Although price and quality do not always go hand in hand, in my experience, higher end stores have better quality in order to continue to attract customers willing to pay higher prices. Buying at thrift stores gives you access to an upgrade in your wardrobe. For instance, if you buy clothes at the Gap and Loft, but can’t quite afford Brooks Brothers, Talbots, or Thomas Pink, this is a great chance to try them out and ridiculously low prices. A Brooks Brothers cotton button-front dress shirt is in the $90-100 price range retail, but you can get them at Goodwill for $5. It completely blows me away that more people don’t thrift. Oh well, all the more amazing clothes for me!

If you don’t have time to go through all the racks, your best bets are skirts, dresses, jackets, and sweaters– these are items that people wear the least, so they are likely to be in the best shape. I had never really given this much thought, but it’s true. Everyone is pretty casual around here, so dresses and skirts don’t get worn a lot. Jackets go to church or a few times to work, and are typically well cared for. Most sweaters I see in thrift stores in this area are cheap and terrible, but that’s probably because it’s the south, and we don’t wear a lot of wool like they do in the north. I’m sure that in Hawaii, y’all never wear wool. Which brings me to:

Look for natural fibers– last longer, usually in better shape. Cotton, linen, silk, wool. The only problem I’ve found with this is when the thrift stores wash everything they get (more likely with Goodwill or Salvation Army), and then dry it. The wool sometimes shrinks or wrinkles or felts. Even so, think to yourself: can I take this to the dry cleaner and have it steamed? I have gotten all but two of my cashmere sweaters at thrift stores. The best quality cashmere cardigan I have is from a thrift store and cost under $5. I’ve never been quite sure how to wear it, but I’ve kept it for years. Cotton knit is a no-no, but woven cotton (the kind that oxford shirts are made from) is a big yes. I got my favorite button front shirt from goodwill when I was in high school (10ish years ago). It cost 25 cents and is still going strong.

Check out the Accessories– Want to try out a skinny belt? You can get one at goodwill for $2. Silk scarves? $1-2. Shoes? My excellent condition Ferragmo loafers were $3.99 (they retail for $350 – $400). This is a great experimental category. I hate wasting money on a failed experiment, and love having spent practically nothing on an accessory that makes outfits look fantastic. Recently I started thinking about getting a really nice silk scarf from Hermes. These scarves are made in France. The quality is amazing, and the patterns are stunning. Each scarf is silk-screened by hand, and the edge seams are hand stitched. This is really the “luxury” scarf. But I’m a cautious person, and I don’t want to shell out a couple hundred bucks on something I might not wear. Enter Goodwill. At goodwill, you can buy a scarf for $2. So, I’ve been buying scarves to make sure they are something I’ll really wear. I’ve worn both of the ones I’ve gotten multiple times, so when I am ready, I’ll be able to get an Hermes with confidence that it won’t just sit in a box in my closet.

Where are the best places to go?

The availability of different types of clothing varies by region, and frequently it is necessary to check out stores in a fairly large geographic radius. Sometimes, the best stores are not where you’d expect them to be. We live an hour and a half from Nashville. The Goodwill there is terrible and very picked over, because the people in Nashville know what to look for. But the Goodwill in Shelbyville, about 45 minutes outside of Nashville, is fantastic. This is because that store gets more upscale donations from the Nashville hub, but Shelbyville is rather economically depressed, so the people who live there are not in the market for the Brooks Brothers shirts or Ferragamo loafers. If you live close enough to a Goodwill in an affluent neighborhood, that could be a good option, but since the people who live in that area know what to look for, you’ll need to go more often if you want to find great stuff. Once you have found a Goodwill or other thrift store that works for you, latch onto it like a leech, and visit it regularly. If you spend the kind of money I do and get the amount of clothing I do, once every season should be often enough. If you have a lot of spending money, huge closets, and want a whole lot of outfits, once every few weeks would work.

In terms of specific stores: Goodwill, is my favorite first and foremost. They’re generally enormous. I’ve never been impressed by Salvation Army, but this could be a regional thing. Value Village is another large thrift store chain. It also benefits charity, but is a little pricier (which, in my opinion, is not reflected in quality of merchandise). If you want a smaller location, try checking out upscale thrift stores– those run by the Junior League or Christian (especially Episcopal, or whatever is most affluent in your area) churchwomen’s groups. At the Bargain Mart (Jr. League), I found a Lilly Pulitzer sundress for about $20. These stores will typically have more consistently upscale clothing in better condition, but at consistently higher prices. Still, $20 for a Lilly is 90% off what you’d pay retail, and this money goes to charity as well.

When Is The Best Time To Go?

Thrift stores receive most of their donations over the weekend. It takes them a while to sort, price, and put out the new merchandise. If you can swing it, go early in the week, like on Tuesday. Go during the workday if you can, to avoid crowded aisles and dressing rooms. Goodwill has specials on the weekends though– first weekend of every month is 50% off everything in the store. It’s obscene. I’m too afraid to go to the Shelbyville Goodwill the first weekend in the month. I might come home with a bag of clothes that weighs more than I do. Most stores have special deals certain days of the week or month. Ask an employee, and write it down.

Miscellaneous Other Advice

1. Don’t get carried away—just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you need to buy it. It’s really not the end of the world though—if you end up donating it back, you can consider that $4 you “wasted” a donation to charity.

2. I recognize that thrift stores freak some people out. The idea of something used is somehow weird. “I’d never buy linens from a thrift store.”  Yes, but you’ll sleep in a hotel where hundreds of people have slept (and probably done a whole lot more) on those sheets? You’ll use those towels in a hotel that hundreds of other people have used to wipe their naked bum? But you won’t buy linens that have been used by one family? You’ll borrow clothes from your friends but won’t buy a used shirt? Just pop ‘em in the washing machine with oxy-clean and detergent on a hot setting if other peoples’ germs freak you out.

3. At most places there are discounts available—a card you can buy, student discounts, military discounts, etc. Around here, you can buy a $12 card at goodwill that benefits local schools and at the same time gives you 20% off at goodwill certain days of the month. Student discounts are available most places too. Go ahead and ask.

The end! Thank you Sarah!

Up next: Recipes? Reviews? Who knows!

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Non-Vegetarian Vegetable Recipes

I might as well have titled this post “vegetables with bacon and sausage,” because that’s what it is. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of vegetables, and that cooking vegetables appealingly is not one of my strong suits (those two facts are probably related). Bacon and sausage aren’t exactly healthy, but if they help you eat your vegetables, they’re probably okay sometimes. No, you shouldn’t cook all your vegetables with bacon all the time, but once in a while is okay, I think. The more “natural” your bacon (or sausage) the better. Simply finding the package labeled “natural” is probably all you need to do (“natural” on bacon or sausage packages usually means no MSG and/or no nitrites/nitrates). Whatever is sold at Whole Foods is probably better than the “natural” versions of standard grocery store brands, along with bacon or sausage directly from some local free-range pig farm.

On with the recipes.

Favorite Green Beans – Author’s “favorite,” not mine (yet). I appreciate the use of mushrooms and shallots for added flavor and increased vegetable content. I’m not familiar with this whole “blanching” thing, but I feel like that much water has to be washing away any water-soluble vitamins in the green beans, so I would probably steam the green beans instead.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and CashewsOnion for added flavor and vegetable content, and cashews because they’re the delicious king of nuts. Fun and different, I think.

Paul’s Acorn Squash – 1/4 cup of sugar per squash half is way too much, especially since acorn squash is one of the smaller varieties of squash (right?). I would half the sugar first time around, and potentially decrease it more later if possible.

Greg’s Baked Acorn Squash – I would buy the “natural” Italian sausage without casings which comes in the yellow styrofoam tray (a common brand, but not the Bob Evans brand for which the recipe calls). Another change: split the package of sausage between two whole squash instead of just one, and make up any difference in volume with more chopped apple.

The end!

Up next: One last economically and environmentally-friendly way to shop.

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Healthier Pancake Recipes

If I had to pick a single favorite food, it would probably be either pancakes or duck. Weird, I know. Today I’ll give you some fun, different, and mostly reasonably healthy pancake recipes.

Nourishing Traditions Soaked Pancakes – This is the main pancake recipe from my favorite book/cookbook Nourishing Traditions (Amazon.com link), and it is probably the healthiest recipe I’m sharing today. Soaking whole wheat flour in yogurt overnight at room temperature may sound weird or scary, but it’s supposed to make the flour more easily digestible and make the nutrients in the flour more readily available, and those are always good things, right? I do find that my digestion seems improved when I eat these pancakes, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. I’ve made this recipe two or three times, and I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected it, but it is pretty good. A few tips: 1) make sure you thin the batter enough with water after the overnight yogurt-soaking; 2) these take longer to cook than regular white flour pancakes (so much so that if you want to serve them to guests, I recommend making them in a day or two in advance when you have plenty of time and refrigerating them, so that you can quickly reheat them in the oven when you want to serve breakfast); 3) putting the heat too high will just burn them, and will not actually help them cook faster. I don’t like them freshly cooked, and prefer freezing them in small batches (two days’ worth) and thawing them when I get a hankering for pancakes. I reheat them in the toaster oven and top with butter (and have maple syrup in a small bowl on the side). (Another blog post mentioning this recipe can be found here.)

Coconut Pancakes – I love pancakes. I love coconut. There is no doubt in my mind that this recipe will be a winner. I suspect that the extra fat and richness from the coconut milk help offset any flavor or texture flaws which may result from the use of 100% whole wheat flour (let’s face it, getting tasty results from 100% whole wheat flour isn’t easy). This recipe is the second and last recipe in this post which I approve for relatively more frequent consumption.

Chocolate French Silk Pancakes – Coconut milk AND chocolate are involved — even more decadent than the previous recipe! (Also more sugar than the previous recipe.) I would use whole-fat coconut milk because that’s how I roll. Not recommend for everyday eating, but definitely fun for special occasions. (I would like someone to make these for me for my birthday. Thank you.) I must find some of this mythical whole wheat pastry flour. My guess is that it’s more finely ground than regular whole wheat flour and makes 100% whole wheat baked goods more palatable. Does anybody have any leads? Is it the same as white whole wheat flour?

Whole Wheat Cherry Vanilla Bean Pancakes – I’m wary of the sweetness and necessity of added glazes, but this recipe does look delicious. Probably another special-occasion-only pancake recipe. Organic frozen cherries would be ideal. The mythical whole wheat pastry flour is also needed for this recipe.

Caramel Apple German Pancake – A single large-pan pancake which is low on flour and high on apples and eggs. It could probably double as a dessert. The caramel sauce would be delicious, of course, but may not be advisable (lots of sugar!) or strictly necessary.

Apple Fritter Cakes with Warm Caramel SauceSimilar to the previous recipe, but a more traditional pancake recipe (more flour). Again, caramel sauce may not be necessary or a good idea.

Nobody ever said pancakes were the healthiest breakfast food (or breakfast-for-dinner food), but if you are going to make pancakes and want to do something different, special, and reasonably healthy, then these recipes should give you some good ideas.

Okay, fine, one more recipe. THE BEST PANCAKES EVER. They’re completely white flour with no redeeming nutritional value, but they are amazingly delicious. They are Maple Bacon Pancakes. My sister received a few pounds of fancy gourmet bacon (probably free-range, antibiotic-free, etc.) from her boss for Christmas one year, and when we found this recipe, we knew we had to make it with her fancy bacon. When my sister got a chance to visit me, she thawed the bacon needed, cooked it, put it in a little plastic container, and flew to Texas with it. Her luggage smelled like bacon, but it was totally worth it. If you want to make these incredible pancakes, use the best, fanciest bacon you can find (possibly from Whole Foods?), don’t scrimp on the buttermilk (whole fat, please), and use real maple syrup (none of that “maple-flavored” stuff).

The end!

Up next: Speaking of bacon… Unhealthier vegetable recipes.

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Small Victories

Small Victories

I still have a long way to go in terms of living naturally (especially eating better consistently… vegetables? what? you mean I have to eat those every day?!?), but I think it’s appropriate to take a day to celebrate some of my small victories. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by thoughts of how much you may have left to change in your habits — I bet you have some small victories to celebrate, too. Here are some of mine:

Realizing I like asparagus enough to eat it leftover and cold. (I’m not known for my love of vegetables, so this is a big deal.)

Realizing I use half as much honey in my tea as I used to use.

Realizing that even the plainest flavor of bubble/boba tea is too sweet and/or rich for me to finish anymore.

Having a week in which I eat plain yogurt with fruit every single day with breakfast.

Being able to choose a KIND Bar (albeit in a variety including chocolate) over frozen yogurt when I’m out running errands. (This victory is half financial — even a $2 not-on-sale KIND Bar costs much less than my typical $4 worth of frozen yogurt.)

Successfully keeping the few boxes of Girl Scout cookies I bought in the freezer for weeks without breaking them out and consuming them at my previous average rate, which was approximately 1/2 box per day. (I had to freeze them in the first place because I bought them when my husband was gone, and I couldn’t eat them without him!)

I guess that’s about it. :-) I’m probably forgetting a few other minor victories, but you get the idea. I hope I’ve gotten you thinking positively about successful minor changes you’ve made, and I certainly hope you don’t feel guilty about any changes you haven’t made. The last thing I want to encourage is guilt. You can do it! No guilt!

The end!

Up next: Recipes for one of my all-time favorite foods. It’s a surprise!

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TUPR 11: The Best Pot Holders

Back before my husband the bear and I got married, I was looking around Bed, Bath, and Beyond to make sure wedding registry items I’d selected online were good in real life. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon what are, to me, the best pot holders ever. They’re silicone with a strong non-slip grip, which is important for weak, clumsy me as I lift large glass pans and cast iron Dutch ovens out of the oven. They can be used as jar-openers. They can double as hot pads/trivets. They’re easy to clean. There is something to be said for an oven mitt once in a while, but otherwise, these pot holders are ideal. I have four of them, and they’re worth every penny.

These Are They

You can find them many places online under the name Honeycomb HotSpot Silicone Pot Holder, including these two websites:

The honeycomb texture makes them more strongly non-slip than other silicone pot holders. I even like to set my laptop on top of one if I’m reading recipes off it on the kitchen counter, so that I know there’s almost no way my laptop will slip off the counter. The honeycomb also makes them thicker than many other silicone pot holders, which is what makes them especially suitable for hot pad/trivet use.

Tag Claims (all true, except I've chosen not to put them in the dishwasher)

That’s about it. The end!

Up next: Celebrating small victories in my quest to live naturally.

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Alvarado Street Bakery Bread Reviews

 

Two Varieties of Alvarado Street Bakery Bread I Haven't Tried Yet

Several months ago in my post entitled The Whole Wheat Dilemma, I discussed a few brands of bread which the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends if you’re concerned about phytic acid in wheat. At the time, I’d only heard of the Ezekiel brand which they mentioned, but as it turns out, our local vegetarian grocery stores also carry Alvarado Street Bakery bread, another brand mentioned alongside Ezekiel. I’ve tried two of their varieties of bread and two of their varieties of bagels, and I’m here to review them.

In short, bread bad, bagels good.

Sprouted Sourdough BreadOkay for toast with butter and honey, but not much else. It’s dry and has a flavor I don’t like. It might be good for grilled cheese sandwiches. I do like a good grilled cheese once in a while. I’d give it a second chance if I saw it on sale again.

No- Salt Sprouted Multigrain Bread – As it turns out, salt is a vital bread ingredient. This bread was repulsive. I could not finish one single piece of it, toasted with butter and honey. I’ve never eaten cardboard, but I’m pretty sure this is what it tastes like. I bought it because it was the variety on sale that week, but I will never make the mistake of buying salt-free bread again. I used half the loaf to make chocolate bread pudding (a variation on this recipe with an added teaspoon of salt, among other changes — I’ll blog about the recipe changes in the future), which turned out great. I froze the other half of the loaf and will undoubtedly make more bread pudding with it later. It took all the richness of the chocolate, sugar, butter, eggs, and whole milk in the bread pudding to save this bread and make it edible.

Sprouted Wheat Sesame Seed Bagels – SO GOOD! My favorite from Alvarado Street Bakery so far. Not dry, unlike the bread. I can’t really see any sesame seeds (they’re mixed in instead of being stuck on the surface of the bagel), but the sesame seed flavor is pleasantly strong, so there must be a lot of them. Perfect toasted with peanut butter, butter, or butter and honey. I’m pretty sure I could even eat one toasted and plain, which is saying a lot.

Sprouted Wheat Bagels – Not quite as good as the ones with sesame seeds, but only because I really like sesame seeds. I would buy these again in a heartbeat, too. Everything that’s true about the Sesame Seed Bagels is true about these, except for the sesame seed flavor.

Notes about price: This brand is pricey. I was already used to paying for the higher-end bread from regular grocery stores, and this is a little step up even from those prices. I check the online sale fliers from the vegetarian grocery store where it’s sold to see when it’s on sale, and I buy it then (they have sales on different varieties at different times). Now that I know I like the bagels, I’ll stock up next time there’s a bagel sale (buy as much as our freezer can reasonably hold!).

Notes about serving size: As I’m sure you all know, half a bagel is essentially equivalent to two slices of toast. I never eat more than two slices of toast at once, so I don’t eat more than half a bagel at once, either (I make the rest of my breakfast out of fruit and yogurt or scrambled eggs). In this brand, the bagels are big and the bread slices are relatively small, so half a bagel may be even more than two slices of toast, but it’s reasonably close.

Bread without flour blows my mind.

Sprouted Wheat Instead of Flour

Sprouted Multi-Grain Bread Ingredients (click to zoom)

Sprouted Rye Seed Bread Ingredients (click to zoom)

(I don’t usually like rye bread, but I bought it on sale as an experiment to see how it would work for grilled cheese sandwiches. It will have few other uses for me, but my husband is partial to rye bread, I think.)

The end! Just wanted to let you know my discoveries, in case you’re interested in this brand.

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Safer Nail Polish

As with most toiletries and cosmetics, some brands of nail polish use safer ingredients than others. I’m not a nail polish fanatic by any means — I hardly ever paint my fingernails, and sometimes I decide to go bare toenails for months at a time — but I figure it’s still good for me (and you) to know which nail polishes are safer. In short, OPI is the major brand of nail polish with the safest ingredients according to the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database (CSD). OPI nail polishes have a hazard scores of 4 (sometimes 5), which is moderate — not ideal, but not totally terrible. Now I have a good guess why most nail salons use OPI — because it’s relatively safe for their employees (and it’s a good nail polish, but there are lots of good nail polishes out there). You can buy OPI at Sephora in individual bottles or sets, and at some salons.

American Apparel nail polish also has a hazard score of 4, but is a little bit more difficult to find (you need an American Apparel store, unless you want to order it online in individual bottles, sets of 3 at a smaller discount, or sets of 7 at a larger discount). If it’s easy for to you find, great, because American Apparel nail polish costs about 35% less than Sephora’s OPI prices (and even less in multi-packs). Both brands are sold in 0.5 ounce bottles. The colors of American Apparel nail polish which I recently bought are pictured below.

My American Apparel Nail Polishes (left to right: Coney Island, Rose Bowl, and Poppy)

There are a few brands of nail polish with hazard scores lower than 4, but I’ve never seen them in stores, and their ingredient lists sound vague. They are Acquarella, Scotch, and Hopscotch (the children’s division of the Scotch brand, if I had to guess), and their hazard scores are all 1. Hopscotch nail polishes cost more than OPI for the same size bottle. Scotch nail polishes cost more than OPI for a smaller bottle. Acquarella cost way more than OPI for the same size bottle and is also sold on Amazon.com. Acquarella is discussed in this article which lists a few other supposedly-safer brands of nail polish (none of the other brands in the article are rated in the CSD, though) and in this insightful blog post.

For comparison, in the CSD, hazard scores for other common brands of nail polish are: Revlon 5 or 6, Sally Hansen 6 or 8, Maybelline 6 or 7, L’Oreal 6, Essie 7.

As far as nail polish remover goes, Acquarella and Hopscotch sell accompanying nail polish remover with a hazard score of 0 in a formula which works with the formula of their nail polish (regular nail polish remover would not work with their nail polishes). (Scotch also sells an accompanying nail polish remover, but it is not rated in the CSD.) If you’re using OPI, American Apparel, or other regular nail polish, here is the CSD list of nail polish removers. I can’t quite interpret it, but as far as I can tell higher hazard scores come partly from acetone but mostly from “fragrance” (as always). Methyl acetate is the lower hazard score alternative to acetone, but finding a methyl acetate product without added fragrance is a challenge. An acetone-based nail polish remover without added fragrance (this one) is sold at Walgreens (I think it’s one of their store brands).

Bottom-line: If you’re only an occasional nail polish user, OPI or American Apparel nail polishes are probably safe enough; any extra money you have floating around would be better put towards safer frequently-used toiletries/cosmetics or your grocery budget. If you’re a nail polish fanatic (re-painting or touching up often, removing polish and changing colors often, etc.), as much as spending the extra money might hurt, you might want to look into using the very safest brands of nail polish, like Acquarella (available with free super saver shipping on Amazon.com on orders over $25!), Hopscotch (the cheapest of the safest nail polishes to begin with, plus 15% off and free shipping from their website in a 3-pack), and Scotch.

The end!

Up next: Reviews of a few varieties of Alvarado Street Bakery breads and bagels.

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