Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The "Green" Beauty Products I'm Using Right Now...

When I first started my blog back in 2010, I created a page dedicated to how I went green with my beauty products.  And although it was full of some good information, I haven't updated it since then...sorry greenies! So now's the time.  I'm combining some of the old page with some new info, links, and of course an updated list of the products I'm using right now. So let's get this cosmetics party started...

Not too long ago, I had no clue what was lurking in the products I used to daily to primp my hair, moisturize my skin, and give my lips that perfect glossy shine. I figured if I could buy it on the store shelf then someone, somewhere must have tested and approved it to be safe for me to use. Well now I know of some of the scary truths lurking behind some of those bottles, creams, and potions...and trust me- it's anything but pretty!

The best way for me to tell you about the dangers of cosmetics is to first tell you about the skin, the skin is our largest organ and it serves as the gatekeeper to our muscles, bones, organs, and cells. Now although we may think we have "tough skin", our skin can actually absorb a lot...think about it- how do nicotine and birth control patches work? Their medication is absorbed through our skin!!!! So if the skin can absorb those medications, what else is it absorbing? Could it be absorbing the parabens and phtalates in your lotion, or maybe the lead in your lipstick? You bet it is!

Here are just a few of the chemicals you should look out for in your cosmetics:
1- Parabens- These little guys are known hormone disruptors.  Basically meaning that they mimic our natural hormones, which disrupts our bodies natural hormone production.  This shift or alteration in hormone levels has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems in women, and decreased sperm count,  prostate and testicular cancer in men. Even more scary, a study even found parabens still intact in breast cancer tumors.  I don't know about you, but I want my hormones left alone!!

2- Phtalates- (pronounced THAL-ates) A toxic petroleum-derivative that has been associated with cancer, disorders of sexual maturation in girls, and birth defects of the penis and desmasulinization in boys (when exposed to phtlates while in the womb).  Also cause asthma, liver and kidney damage.  Not to mention fertility problems in men.  Phtlates are often hidden under the sneaky and harmless-sounding name "fragrance" in personal care products, Unfortunately, they are not only are found in cosmetics, but also in products around your home because they help make plastics flexible and soft (seen in: PVC, shower curtains, rubber duckies, baby bath time books) and they are even found in some air freshners.

3- Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS)- This is what makes your toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash so nice and foamy.  Unfortunately, those soap bubbles aren't so innocent.  SLS can cause skin irritation, strips your skin of important oils, could affect eye sight, and possibly cause cancer.  SLS is has industrial uses too as engine degreasers...and you want me to put it in my hair or mouth, no way!

4- Lead- You would think that no level of lead is safe in the human body, which is why most people are so concerned about lead in old paint.  But did you ever stop and think that there might be lead in your lipstick? Unfortunately in studies done on popular brands of lipstick, nearly all tested for some level of lead in their product.  Now although the amounts may seem small (so small that apparently to the FDA wants to do nothing about it) it is a fact that lead builds up in the body over time, so day after day, year after year...you are increasing the "lead load" in your body with each application of lipstick. In fact it said that women may ingest 7 pounds of lipstick in their lifetime! Yikes!  Lead has been linked to neurological problems such as language, learning, and behavior problems.  On top of this it can pass through the placenta when a woman is pregnant, thus harming her unborn child.  Ick...let's stay away from this!

Need some more proof these toxins are nasty? Check out this video,
"The Story about Cosmetics" (it's about 8 minutes long)...

Well, your probably thinking to yourself, "The last thing I want to do right now is play cosmetic detective and try to find healthy products and spend a couple hundred bucks replacing all my cosmetics!" But, hold up there- just like any other change I made to my lifestyle, I took this one step at a time, and made my swaps. I swapped out the old and toxic for the new and healthy. Now I'm sure there's some that aren't the "greenest of green," but we're all doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are so do what works for you.  Here's the list of the "green" beauty products that I'm using right now, most of which you can find at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods (or Nature's Pantry for those in the KC area), or online.

The "Green" Beauty Products I'm Using Right Now...

1. Lotion- this is the most important swap for you to make first because you cover your body with this stuff, which means more of your skin is absorbing this product than nearly anything else that you use (basically more surface area=more exposure). By switching this one out, your saving your body from having to come in contact with tons of chemicals on daily basis.  I use this brand called: Dessert Essence Organics Hand and Body Lotion in "Fragrance Free". Cost $7-8 online or health food store.

Dessert Essence Organics
Hand and Body Lotion

2. Lip Gloss/Lip Stick- You'll want to make this the next priority on your list because even though we said the skin could absorb a lot of toxins, think about your lips...how much of that lip gloss or lip stick do you think you ingest? Actually you probably don't want to know because it's disgusting, and even worse are the chemicals that are lurking in your lip products and the worst offender is lead, as I stated before! So please switch this one out ASAP! I use Burt's Bees Super Shiny Natural Lip Gloss in Nectar Nude. Cost: $6-7 at Wal-Mart even!

Burt's Bees Super Shiny Natural Lip Gloss

3. Self-Tanner- Boo hoo, this was a tough one for me, I'd been tanning since high school and was perfectly content with my vacation-like glow year-round, but before I got pregnant with Avery, I really reexamined the health pros and cons of tanning, and in combination with the chemicals lurking in the lotions I used pre-tan, I gradually phased this one out. The only thing that got me through it was my swap...was a sunless tanner.

Okay, not just any orange-paint, toxic-smelling self-tanner...I found the mecca of all sun-less tanners, as recommended by Sophie Ulliano in the book Gorgeously Green, and it's by Lavera. They have this rocking self-tanner that is easy, healthy, and looks great! I apply it like lotion every morning after I get out of the shower to give me a little glow and although I'm no where near as tan as I used to be, I know it's a better health swap for me! I use: Lavera Sunless Tanning Lotion.  Cost: $27.50 on Lavera's website, sometimes I've been able to find it at Target too.

Lavera Sunless Tanning Lotion

4.  Body Wash/Hand Soap- My go-to for all things soap is Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap.  It's plant-based, all natural, organic, and it has no additives or foaming agents.  Even better, Dr. Bronner's has 18 different uses! In order to make body wash, I fill about 1/3 to 1/2 of an empty 16 oz. bottle with Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap and then I fill the rest with water. Another use I have for the castile soap is for dish soap, click here to read how I make that with the peppermint castile soap. Other scents they have are: citrus, lavender, almond, and rose.  Cost: $6 for 8 oz. bottle at local health food stores, or even Target. I typically get the 32 oz. bottle for $13-14 (and with diluting it, it will last several months).
Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap

5. Mascara- These next few products were the little swaps I did as I gradually ran out of each product. A great affordable and healthy opition I use for my mascara is "Organic Wear" by Physician's FormulaTheir mascara is free of harsh chemicals, synthetic preservatives, and parabens. Cost: $8-10 at Wal-Mart or online. 
Organic Wear Mascara by Physician's Formula

6. Eye Liner-  I so loved my old eye liners of the past, but when it was time to go green, I found Lavera's Organic Soft Eyeliner in Brown and it's really done it's job well. Now if only I could find a good eye pencil sharpener...anyone have recommendations? This one also doubles as a great eyebrow pencil from time to time.  Cost: $14.50 online, $9 at Target.

Lavera Organics Soft Eyeliner

7. Eye Shadow: I use Larenim Eye Shadow in "Bewitched Beige". Cost: about $12 (good thing this will last for many months) at most health food stores or online. 

Larenim Eye Shadow

I've even tried to "green" my make up tools with this brush set from EcoTools...

8.  Deodorant- Okay so now I'm getting into those real personal care products we can't live without, and trust me, I'm not telling you to drop your deodorant and stop shaving, but there is something scary in deodorant/antiperspirants...it's aluminum.  Aluminum has been linked to breast cancer, seizures, and Alzheimer's, just to name a few. So what's a girl to do? Start some swaps! Although it took a few tries of other brands, I finally found my favorite deodorant: Tom's of Maine 24 Hour Long Lasting Odor Protection Aluminum-Free Deodorant Stick in "Unscented".  It's great, no smell, great coverage, keeps me dry and aluminum-free! Cost: $6-7 at health food stores or online.

9. Shave Gel - Wow, it's hard to believe but I used to use a very, very toxic product: Veet, a depilatory cream occasionally instead of shaving. I guess I never managed to read the "Caution" "Poison" "Warning!" labels on the back or even think twice as I smelled the toxic smell as I let the product sit for several minutes on my skin. Hello idiot, it's toxic!

After my awakening with this product, I vowed to just shave like a normal person...but then it got me thinking about what was in my shave gel and as you can imagine, it wasn't much better. I researched and found things like: petroleum-derived chemicals, parabens, phtalates, and triclosan. So out with that too! Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to go that "green" and avoid shaving all together, so luckily I found an amazing product called Dr.Bronner's Organic Fair Trade Shaving Soap Gel in Baby Unscented. It's definitely not shaving cream...it comes out as a brown liquid and it feels like thick sugar, but when you later it up with some water, it works just as good as traditional shaving cream. Cost: $8-9 at health food stores, $7-8 at Target, or online.

Dr. Bronner's Organic Fair Trade Shaving
Soap Gel 

9. Hair Products- This is a tricky one for me too, because as I'm sure other women can relate...when we find a product that works, we stick with it for years.  That's the way I was and since I've got thick, curly, (need I say frizz-prone) hair, I was not very willing to give up the hair products that had worked so well for me for so long. But what got through it and interested in a green swap? The idea of finding a "better" product! So instead of seeing it as dropping my favorite products to have not-so-cute hair, I saw it as a chance to maybe have better-than-ever hair that was also "green". 

Now although I wouldn't say my hair has drastically changed since going green with my hair products, I do feel much better using them and knowing they are clean and green. So here's what I use: Giovanni Organics Smooth As Silk Shampoo and Conditioner. Cost: $8 at health food stores and even Wal-Mart.

Giovanni Smooth As Silk
 Shampoo & Conditioner

When it comes to styling these curls, I use one product and one product only: Beautiful Curls Shea Butter Curl Defining Gel. Especially now that Avery is around, I love knowing that she's not breathing in added fragrances, chemicals, or who knows what else from my hair products during our snuggle time. Cost: $12 at local health food stores or online. Anyone else have a favorite "green" curl styling cream/gel? I'm always interested in trying new brands out! 

Beautiful Curls Shea Butter Curl Defining Gel

10. Concealer- This was one of the last products I gave up because I felt the current concealer I had matched my skin perfectly and it flawlessly covered up the occasional blemish or bags under my eyes. But with all my other healthy and organic products, I began feeling the pressure to kick it to the curb. So I finally did to a concealer with a new eco-friendly brand, MyChelle. I use: MyChelle Concelear in Solar. Cost: $12 at health food store or online.

MyChelle Concealer

I hope this helps to give you some ideas when it comes to "greening" your beauty products. If you have any questions about the products I use, I'd be happy to answer them.

Also, if you want some more information about this topic or to see how your personal care products rank check out: The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.  On this awesome website you can enter a personal care product in the "Search" box and then it will rank it for you on a scale of 1-10.  One being groovy and healthy, and a ten being super toxic.  It will also break down each ingredient and let you know how toxic it is on the ranking of 1-10.  Very educational and easy and to understand.  ( :

Do you have any favorite "green" beauty products that you're using right now? Share below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday & Cheesy Casserole Recipe

Happy Wednesday everyone! Hope you had a good Valentine's Day yesterday, or as Brandon and I like to call it in a boycotting-kind of way, "Heart Day". We know someone who sure enjoyed it...

Celebrating her first Valentine's Day.

Onto today's gluten-free, vegan food...which is linked up to the blog, Peas & Crayons.  Curious what other's are eating this Wednesday, check it out here where dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of bloggers all meet up once a week to post our eats for the day. The link up is a great way to find new blogs, discover new recipes, and see that your not the only one who eats the same thing nearly every day (he he!).

Now on with my food for the day:

5:00 AM Just woke-up snack: Rice Chex cereal with
SO Delicious Sugar-Free Vanilla Coconut Milk

Workout:  1 hour of yoga, 2 episodes of Namaste Yoga...my favorite yoga series of all time that I blogged about here.

7:30 AM Breakfast:
 "Chocolate Ice Cream Smoothie"

Want to know what makes it so much like ice cream?
The frozen bananas! I have something called a "banana bank"
where I keep banana halves in a glass container (with no lid)
in my freezer. Main rule of the banana bank: if you make a
withdraw, you must make a deposit (aka... refill it!).

9:15 AM First Morning Snack: Peanut Butter Chocolate
Chip Larabar...tastes like a Snickers bar to me!

10:30 AM 2nd Morning snack: Gluten-free, vegan pancakes
 from Cinnamon Quill with Maple Agave Nectar.

11:30 3rd Morning Snack: 1 banana

12:15 Lunch: Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew...awesome
combo of flavors, veggies, and even beans!
2:15 Afternoon snack: "Melty Pizza Hummus" with
organic corn tortilla chips from Chocolate-Covered Katie.
This stuff is amazing! My husband loves it, parents love it,
brothers love it...and clearly I love it! You've got to try it.

5:30 Just-got-home snack: "Chocolate Vanilla Smoothie": vanilla
coconut milk, Chocolate Sun Warrior Rice Protein Powder,
Spinach, 1 1/2 frozen bananas, 3 frozen strawberries.

7:15 Dinner: "Cheesy Casserole" with rice, tofu, broccoli,
carrots, and potatoes. See the recipe below!
Dessert: "Chocolate Mousse Frosting" from Chocolate-Covered Katie

Onto that "Cheesy Casserole" recipe...
This is one recipe that Brandon and I have loved for years. It reminds me of those cheesy, rich, and warming casseroles I enjoyed in my pre-vegan days.  Ahhh...cheese. I bet cheese is one of the main reasons why so many people feel they could not make the switch to going vegan. I get ya'.  There's times I wish I could go to a restaurant and order a yummy, cheesy dish, but I can't. Luckily, I've got recipes like this one that remind me of  regular old cheese, only this time no animals were needed to make it. Sorry shameless, vegan plug there.

Moving on, I love to take this casserole to holiday gatherings because it hits the spot, just like all the non-vegan food would. The only downside to this recipe is that it takes a bit longer than most recipes to prepare. No worries though, I've cut corners, multi-tasked steps, and streamlined the preparations to help save you time.  My tip: try making it on the weekend when you've got more time to do all the prep.  Even better, do it in stages. Cook the rice one day. Chop the veggies another. Press the tofu overnight. You get the point. Once you taste this, you'll want to make time for it. I know I do. Now enough jabbering, let's get on with the recipe!

Cheesy Casserole

Modified from "Cheezy Casserole" from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Casserole Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups dry short grain brown rice  
  • 1 pkg. of extra firm tofu
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 a large red onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 4 small russet or red potatoes (or 3 large)
  • 1 broccoli crown
  • 1/2 cup cashews (optional for topping)
"Cheese" Ingredients
  • 1 pkg. Daiya cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups rice milk or other milk alternative
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. You'll need a 3 quart casserole dish (mine is 9.25 x 13.25).

The casserole ingredient group-shot.

1. Press your tofu. I use (and love) my TofuXpress. It' makes
pressing tofu a breeze! I'll usually press the tofu
overnight, but sometimes I forget so just a few hours works too.

Once you assemble the press, it looks like this. This will help
get all the extra water out of it to make it even more firm.

2. Cook your rice. I use a rice cooker and it takes 1 1/2 cups of
rice with 3 cups of water. You can also make this on the stove.
Here's what mine looks like once it's done cooking.

3. Peel and chop the potatoes into bite-size pieces. 

4.  Boil water in a large stock pot. Once boiling, add the
potatoes and cook until mostly soft...10 minutes or so.

5. While the potatoes are boiling chop the carrots into "coins".

6. Next, chop the broccoli and onion into bite-size pieces.

7.  Once the potatoes are mostly soft, scoop them
out with a strainer or slotted spoon into a large mixing bowl
with a napkin at the bottom (to absorb the extra liquid).

8. Now add the broccoli, carrots and onions to the boiling water and
let them boil for about 3-5 minutes. Then remove them in
the same way you did the carrots and potatoes and
add to the large mixing bowl.

Time to make the cheese!

Cheese Ingredient group shot

9. In a  saucepan turn the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup
coconut oil, and allow to melt. Then add 1/4 cup brown rice flour
to the oil and whisk constantly so it won't burn.

10. Now add the 2 cups of rice milk and crank up the heat
until it starts to simmer.

11. When you start to see bubbles, lower the heat,
and then add the entire package of cheddar
Daiya cheese and stir it in. I also add 1 tsp. of salt and 1
shake of pepper at this point to the cheese.

12. When you first put it in, it will look clumpy like this.

14. Keep stirring it until it looks more creamy like this.

Time to bring it all together...

15. Now add the cooked rice, about 3 cups total, to the big
bowl.  Feel free to use more or less if you want. Be
sure you've pulled out the napkin that was at the bottom
of the bowl from earlier!

16. Now add the cheese and stir...don't add the tofu just yet.

17. Remember that good ol' tofu that was pressing? Time to get
it out and pour the extra water out of it.
Next chop the tofu into bite-size pieces, as big or as small
as you would like. I go with small rectangles.

18. Once your veggies and rice get all coated with cheese,
then add the tofu and stir carefully. I like my tofu to retain
it's shape a bit so if I stir it too much I end up with small tofu

19. Now pour the mixture from the bowl into a greased 3 Qt.
casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

20. While the casserole is cooking, food process or finely
chop 1/2 cup of cashews to add as a topping (optional).

21. Take the casserole out after 30 minutes, sprinkle the
cashew crumbs on top and bake for 10 more minutes.

Then let the casserole cool and enjoy this filling, veggie-
loaded, "hits the spot" casserole.

Do you have any favorite vegan casseroles that you love? Share about them below...I sure love a good casserole and would love to try some new ones.

Happy WIAW! See you next week.
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