Sunday, February 17, 2013

Almost Vegan

I think it was inevitable that I would eventually try to take a vegan diet route.  For a period of time in San Francisco, I explored and enjoyed a vegetarian lifestyle and as much as I love studying nutrition, it was only a matter of time before I discovered the benefits.  After watching Forks Over Knives, my hesitation diminished.  My husband watched a couple of other documentaries but advised me not to watch them because he was afraid some of the parts may upset me.

Naturally, when it came to recipe-gathering, I called my mom (a gluten-free vegan) and I hit up Pinterest.  Boy did I score on some great food.  After 3 weeks of new recipes, my husband and I were sold.  Below are some of the things I have made over the weeks.  A couple of the items are completely vegan while the others are "almost vegan".  We decided that we would try to run through all of the food in our fridge instead of wasting and replacing.

Top-Left: Tofu & Veggie Enchiladas with Black Beans (GF, V if you use vegan cheese.  If you want to make sure you it stays GF, make sure to check your corn tortillas.  Not all are GF.)

Top Right: Slow Cooker Pinto Beans with Gluten-Free Cornbread (GF, Vegetarian: Corn bread calls for 2 eggs and milk.  I used rice milk.)
This meal is so inexpensive! The whole dinner cost less than $10 dollars and it gave us 2 nights of leftovers.

Bottom Left: Vegan Rajas- served in corn tortillas (GF,V)
5 ingredients- poblanos, onion, Tofutti, salt, and corn tortillas.  Email me for directions.

Middle: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Veggie Wrap (V)
I added tomatoes and subbed lima beans for soy beans.

Bottom Right:  Vegetable and Cashew Curry with Basmati Rice (GF, V if you use soy yogurt on top)
From the book, Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin

I also made these delicious recipes:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just Say "No" to Penta

It's been a while since I've posted anything, mostly because life has been crazy the last month.  I'm 24 weeks pregnant now with baby #2, a healthy baby boy.  However, if you would have talked to me a month ago, I clearly thought something different.  This is my story about taking the Penta and why I don't recommend even bothering.

I get it, I'm not a doctor.  But I'm not a fool, either.  Take the test if you want, but the stress is not worth it.  When I signed the paper to do genetic testing, I didn't know what I was in for.  5 days before Christmas, I was called by the NP in my Doctor's office.  She sounded empathetic and in a few words told me that the Penta test I had taken had come back abnormal for Down's Syndrome.  She told me a specialist would be giving me a call in the next few days.  Terrified and crushed, I hung up the phone bawling.  My husband, who was driving at the time, began freaking out because I couldn't even speak the words to tell him what she had said.  After I managed to get the words out, he squeezed my hand and told me that everything was going to be alright.  Thank God I have him by my side.

Unfortunately a week went by and I heard nothing.  I called my doctors office and the specialist trying to either get an appointment or figure out what the heck was going on.  By then I was almost 20 weeks.  I then learned that the specialist had gone on vacation and wouldn't be able to see me until she got back (2.5 weeks after the initial abnormal test).  I got fed up and called my doctor's office to try to get some kind of answer.  They had me go in for a blood test called a MaterniT21 (99% accurate).  Again, it was a waiting game.  After weeks of crying, stressing, praying, and missed sleep,  I learned that the second test came back negative for DS.

There are several things that irk me about this whole situation.  Why was I not told that the Penta has a fairly high false positive rate?  Why did I have to read this on the internet?  After reading blog after blog on the web, I learned that so many other women had had the same problem.  I mean, we are talking about our sanity here.  This scenario robbed the joy out of my pregnancy for an entire month.  It caused unnecessary stress that was not healthy for me or the baby.  And I don't want any other women to go through the same thing.  Sorry, Penta.. you need to go away.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Green Cookware

As you may already know, there is a lot of fuss regarding Teflon cookware and talk of it being pulled off the market.  Dupot is being forced to take PFOA (a chemical used to make teflon) off the market by 2015. Companies will be forced to use safer alternatives.

"Non-stick coatings can contain residues of PFOA (perfluorooctanoate), a chemical used to make Teflon and a breakdown product of stain- and grease-proof coatings on carpet, clothing and food packaging. PFOA is found in the bodies of nearly all Americans. It is a likely human carcinogen; it also has a variety of metabolic developmental, reproductive, endocrine, and neurobiological health effects. Many manufacturers of non-stick cookware have committed to eliminating PFOA residues from non-stick coatings." (

Feel free to check out more on this nasty stuff but the main reason I wanted to share this was to give some better alternatives if you're looking to switch.  About 2 years ago, I pitched all of my teflon cookware and began my collection to a safer set of pots and pans.  My collection includes three types of cookware:

Stainless Steel.  Stainless steel pots are great to have.  Must haves:
  • Medium sized pot with steamer and lid (for pasta, stews, soups, and the steamer for veggies, etc) 
  • A couple of different sized saucepans for veggies and sides
  • A couple of different-sized saute pans
You can buy these stainless steel sets for anywhere from $50-$1500 a set depending on the quality you want.  Costco has these sets all the time for under $200.  The downside is that stainless is not as versatile as cast iron, which is able to be taken from stove to oven without a problem.  Also, with stainless you will need to use oil in the bottom, as they are not non-stick.  I use olive oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil.   

Cast Iron.  Last year I began collecting Le Creuset cast iron cookware.  You will find that these are much higher in price however they come with a lifetime warranty and are made to go from stovetop to oven.  Each pan is around $250 but I will use them for the rest of my life and they come in all kinds of fun colors!  All of mine were gifted to be by my mom (a gluten-free vegan who loves cooking, and my grandmother who gifted me my wok as a bridal shower gift) Cast iron has been used forever, but Le Creuset has seriously mastered it by covering it with a non-stick, non-toxic ceramic coating.  The pans I found to be of the biggest use were:
  •  3 1/2 qt. Braiser- I use mine all the time!
  •  5 qt. French Oven-  Excellent for stews, chili, soups, roasted chicken and veggies, & pot roasts.
  • Square Grill Skillet- Awesome for indoor steaks, burgers, grilled chicken, etc.  They even make a panini press to go with it!
  • Wok- I love making Asian food and this may not be all that useful for everyone but stir-fry is a staple in our house.

Greblon Ceramic Coated Frying Pans.  These Ozeri frying pans are awesome! My grandmother actually introduced me to these because I warned her to get rid of her Teflon pans.  To my surprise, the next time I went to her house, she had purchased these.  They are Germany-made Ceramic coated, eco-friendly frying pans that are totally non-stick and free of PTFE and PFOA.  You can get this set of 3 frying pans for $100 on Amazon and it comes with with an 8", 10", and 12" pan.

I hope this helps and gives you something to ask Santa for ;) Happy Cooking!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

PVC: Quite Possibly The Most Hazardous Toxin in Your Home

Moms, if you haven't researched PVC, you need to.  When I first had Akepa, I went on a rampage removing items in the house that were either questionable or indefinitely contained the toxin.  You should do the same.  It doesn't take long (maybe a little money, however) but in the end, you will feel much better about the home you live in.  (I'll tell you why in the next paragraph).  PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is used in a ton of common household products.  To make it easy, if it's plastic- check it.  I also listed a few of the top offenders.   When checking your house, here's something to remember: if the plastic doesn't say PVC-free or Phthalate-Free, you should probably consider getting rid of it!

  • Shower curtains (buy a fabric one instead)
  • Plastic tupperware (Buy glass, and please God tell me you don't mircrowave these things) 
  • Plastic toys (Phthalates have now been banned in toys but I still try to choose toys made from natural materials when possible)
  • Artificial leather upholstery (vinyl) 
  • Air fresheners (Just don't use them.. seriously they're obnoxious anyway.)
  • Dryer sheets (I live without them. They're really not that necessary.) 
  • Baby formula packaging (breastfeeding will eliminate this concern, however if you aren't able to  breastfeed, go for a formula in a metal tin (Earth's Best makes one)
  • Cleaning products (choose natural or make your own)
  • PVC piping (obviously!)
  • Cosmetics (Choose brands like Tarte, Bare Minerals, Zoya, etc.) 

Here's why I made the switch... The side effects of PVC should make you want to make the switch too.  

  1. PVC is an endocrine disruptor.  It is also linked to breast cancer & fibroid tumors, reproductive impairment, neurotoxicity, birth defects, and immune system repression.  
  2. Read this... I pulled it directly off of the United States' FDA website.
  3. "A similarly dangerous compound, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is found in countless items children encounter: backpacks, lunch boxes, raincoats, even the vinyl flooring of your home. Not only has PVC flooring been linked to higher rates of autism, but PVC exposure is also associated with cancer, kidney damage, and development of the reproductive system. Look for products labeled PVC-free, and be wary of the word “vinyl.” "
    Read more:
  4. "... [There is] direct evidence that the presence of phthalates prolongs the survival of white blood cells, which supports the idea that they are contributing to damage and to inflammation ... phthalates encourage cells to produce hydrogen peroxide, which ... can kill cells and damage tissue."
  5. "As EHHI reported, studies have shown women of childbearing age have significantly higher phthalate exposures than other adults (could this be because they also use the most cosmetics?), and the chemical has been detected in 100 percent of pregnant women tested. It's known that fetal exposure to phthalates is closely related to maternal exposure, according to EHHI, so many, if not all, babies are starting out with exposure in the womb."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

I was unpacking boxes yesterday and I found all of the books I read while I was pregnant.  Among these were my vaccination books.  I purchased them because during my child development studies, we touched on the rising rate of Autism and the suggested link between vaccinations & Autism.  The pharmaceutical companies deny any link of course but I think we can all list several instances where pharmaceuticals have gone very wrong.

When I tell people that Akepa is not fully vaccinated, some people look at me like I'm crazy.  (I really could less, but it's just a nice reminder that the majority of people buy into everything their doctors tell them).  When I approached Akepa's pediatrician about only partially vaccinating her, he was surprisingly accepting.  He told me that it was ultimately my decision as the parent and he was especially understanding when I declined the MMR.  He confirmed that the MMR vaccine had indeed received a great deal of controversy and gladly accepted my decision to pass on it.

If you are looking for a new read, looking to have babies, are pregnant now, or just want to educate yourself on vaccinations, take a look at a couple of these books.  One was written by pediatrician Dr. Sears, another by Jenny McCarthy who's son is autistic, and the last is written by Dr. Stephanie Cave, Practitioner and Vaccination Expert.