Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I have always said that if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only pack one item to bring with me, I would probably pick vinegar. Not only is it edible, and would be a wonderful addition to the vegetable diet I would probably be eating on the island, but it can be used for a variety of medicinal, cleaning and grooming purposes.

What is vinegar?

Vinegar is made from the fermentation of ethanol (sources are usually wine, cider, beer or other fermented liquids), which produces acetic acid.

What is the difference between the different types of vinegar?

-Balsamic vinegar comes from fermented white grapes and is the most expensive and usually the best quality vinegar. This is because it is aged longer than other types of vinegars. It has a sweeter taste and thicker texture, and is usually used in salad dressings or as a dipping sauce for breads.

-Red and white wine vinegars come from wine or champagne and are usually used for salad dressings and marinades.

-Apple cider vinegar obviously comes from cider and has a mild taste. It is also good for salad dressings.

-Rice vinegar comes from rice and has less acidity than other forms of vinegar. It is used in many Asian foods.

-Malt vinegar comes from barley and is commonly used on potatoes and fried fish.

-Distilled white vinegar comes from grain alcohol and has a very unpleasant taste, making it more popular as a cleaning agent. It is rarely used in food.

In what ways does our family use vinegar?

  • I make many homemade salad dressings using mostly balsamic and apple cider vinegars.
  • We always have malt vinegar on our potatoes.
  • Adam loves to make homemade sushi with rice vinegar in his rice (it makes it stickier).
  • Vinegar is also used in our kitchen for fermenting and pickling.
  • Whenever I have non-organic fruit that has a visible residue (especially with apples), I make sure to soak them in a vinegar wash.

Cleaning - I gave up on commercial cleaners when I was pregnant with Gabriel. I had read somewhere that pregnant women shouldn't use harsh cleaners, especially bleach, while pregnant and figured that if it wasn't good for my unborn child it probably wasn't good for anyone. We replaced all of our household cleaners with either vinegar, baking soda, or a combination of the two. Not only does the vinegar disinfect (kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs/virsuses), but it also neutralizes odors and removes mineral deposits. We use it to:

  • clean carpet messes by covering the area with baking soda, letting it dry, vacuuming the dry soda and then spraying the area with straight vinegar.
  • shine windows.
  • sanitize toys and other surfaces the children touch, like high chairs and changing tables.
  • remove residue from kitchen appliances.
  • clean tubs and countertops. I like to use straight distilled white vinegar for these chores, but some people prefer to dilute it with water. Using it with baking soda (to scrub the surface) is really effective.


  • I add a cup of distilled white vinegar to my load of cloth diapers to help disinfect.
  • Vinegar also can replace liquid fabric softener in your laundry, because it reduces static cling. Don't worry, you can't smell the vinegar afterwards.


  • Spraying your hair with vinegar before you get out of the shower will help get rid of some of the build-up in your hair (the same way it removes build-up in household appliances) and make it shinier.
  • Some people use vinegar as a deodorant, but I have not had luck with it.


  • Whenever I have a mystery rash, I cover it with a little vinegar. This helps dry out the rash.
  • It can also take the sting out of big bites.
  • Although I have never used it in this way, I have read that vinegar can also be useful in treating jellyfish stings.
  • Adam swears by his apple cider drink. Whenever he feels like he needs a quick detoxification, he will add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink it.
  • Vinegar has been proven to lower cholesterol.
  • It removes warts.
  • You can clear up ear infections by rinsing the ear with a vinegar solution.

Gardening - Vinegar can be used as a weed killer. Just be careful - after cleaning out my son's kiddie pool with vinegar in my front yard last summer, I noticed that it killed all the grass in the area.

I don't know what I would do without these products in my home. They are a natural alternative to many harmful chemicals and I feel safer knowing that my cleaning closet contains items that will not poison my children if they were to come in contact with them.



"All About Vinegars - Vinegar Types - Using Vinegar in Cooking and Baking." Busy Cooks Quick and Easy Cooking and Recipes. Web. 30 Dec. 2009. http://busycooks.about.com/od/quicktips/qt/vinegartips.htm.

"Vinegar -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 30 Dec. 2009. ..

"Vinegar Kills Bacteria, Mold and Germs Healthy and Green Living." Care2 - largest online community for healthy and green living, human rights and animal welfare. Web. 30 Dec. 2009. .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ways To Increase Your Veggie Intake Without Tasting Them

With a two-year-old in the house and a husband who likes his dinners consisting of at least 60-70% vegetables, meal-planning can get somewhat difficult. Like many toddlers, my son does not enjoy anything green on his plate, so we have to get sneaky with our cooking.

Add greens to your foods.

Leafy greens, especially spinach and collard greens, have become a staple in this house for many reasons. They are one of my superfoods, because they are high in so many essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Since Gabriel is allergic to milk, we have to make sure he is getting enough calcium through the foods he eats.

Greens are also very easy to hide in our food. We hide them in our noodles and just about any dish we make with ground meat, like meatballs, meatloaf, tacos, spaghetti, etc. You can't really taste the greens in the food, which is why Gabe will gobble these dishes up without caring that there is something green on his plate.

Add pureed veggies to your dishes.

Another method for hiding veggies in your food is to include pureed versions in your dishes. Over the summer I bought extra produce at the Farmer's Market and made/froze homemade baby food for David, but later decided not to introduce solid foods until after he was 9 months old. By the time he was eating solids he wasn't very interested in the pureed versions and went straight to finger foods. This left me with gallons of frozen squash, apples, pumpkin and pears in my freezer.

The baby food is made by softening the veggies (I prefer to steam them to maintain more of the vitamin content) and then blending them in the food processor. Then I spoon the puree into ice cube trays and freeze them. Once they are frozen you can break the cubes apart and store them in freezer bags.

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When preparing your dinner, just throw a few cubes into the dish (each cube is approximately 2 tablespoons).

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They will melt down and you will barely taste them in your meal.

You may not have a picky toddler in your house, but perhaps you have a spouse that doesn't like to eat veggies. Maybe you have extra produce that will go bad soon and you don't know what to do with it. Or perhaps you are just looking for ways to increase your vegetable intake without having to eat salads at every meal. Pureeing, freezing and sneaking them into your food is a perfect solution!

As always, make sure your produce is locally grown, organic, and in-season.


Recipe for the meal shown above:
Brown one pound of free range turkey with baby spinach, carrots, celery, fresh parsley, 2 cloves of garlic, 5 cubes of squash, sea salt, and some
pure olive oil (make sure it is regular olive oil, not virgin or extra virgin).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Natural Deodorants

A few months ago I decided to ditch my normal deodorant/antiperspirant and find a more natural alternative. My main reason for wanting to switch was because of the aluminum found in most women's anti-perspirants. Many men's brands do not have aluminum, but all of the common women's brands do.

Aluminum is a toxin that has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease, brain disorders, respiratory disorders and even cancer. Some scientists believe that the increase in breast cancer could be due to the fact that the aluminum blocks the lymph nodes near the breast, causing toxins to pool there.

There isn't enough concrete evidence at this point to directly link the chemicals in deodorant to anything for sure, but I just don't feel safe testing my luck.

I had tried to switch deodorants during my last pregnancy and found that nothing was working as well as my normal brand. But recently I decided to give all of the brands I had purchased a try again.

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Here are the aluminum-free brands I tried and the results (safety scores come from the Skin-Deep Cosmetic Safety Database - the lower the score, the safer the product):

JASON Natural Cosmetics Deodorant Roll-On - Aloe Vera

Safety Rating - 4

Effectiveness - The product smells wonderful, but left me feeling wet and sticky all morning long. It never completely dried after the initial application and was pretty ineffective.

Tom's of Maine Long-Lasting Deodorant - Apricot

Safety Rating - 2 (The database did not having a rating for this specific scent, but all other deodorants by Tom's of Maine scored an average of 2)

Effectiveness - The product smelled wonderful and worked well for a few hours, but wore off quickly. Frequent reapplication would be necessary for the product to be effective.

Nature's Gate Grapefruit and Wild Ginger Deodorant

Safety Rating - 5 (The database did not having a rating for this specific scent, but all other deodorants by Nature's Gate scored an average of 5)

- I did not enjoy the smell of this product and it was completely ineffective, even with frequent reapplication.

now Personal Care Nature's Deodorant Stick

Safety Rating - 0 (The database did not have a rating for this specific brand, however other sticks with the same ingredients scored an average of 0)

- The product was very effective for several hours after the inital application. Frequent reapplication would be necessary for the product to be completely effective.

I wasn't happy enough with any of the brands to use them on a regular basis, so instead of wasting more money on other "natural" brands, I decided to make my own.

My first trial was with baking soda. I simply applied a thick coating to my underarms after I got out of the shower and let it soak in. The results were not very good - it was itchy and gave me a rash that looked like I was burned. I had the same results with an application of witch hazel and then another with vinegar (both of these wet options also made me smell even worse than I would have if I skipped them).

So, my final experiment was to just stop using a deodorant completely. I started doing this about two months ago. I'm not going to lie - during the first few weeks I smelled really bad! I had to "freshen up" multiple times throughout the day and try to mask the odor with essential oils. But, after about a month I noticed that the smell had started to get better. (I realize that one can get used to their own smells, so I made sure to check with Adam to make sure I wasn't just immune to it.)

I've also noticed that my scent changes based on the foods I eat. If I put junk into my body, especally sugar, I smell bad the next day. So long as I eat natural foods I am usually safe.

If I shower every day and freshen up on days I sweat more than I normally would, I don't notice a bad smell at all.

Everyone's body chemistry is different, and what works for one person isn't going to work for everybody, but if you're willing to experiment a little and possibly smell for a short period of time until you find the right fix, you can find a way to stop clogging your lymph nodes with toxins!