Thursday, April 9, 2009

Essential Oils vs Synthetic Fragrance

When you know better, you do better and now I know better.

Up until last year, I was still open to using some fragrance oils, but not anymore. I've been making my own beauty and hygiene products at home for awhile now, but only recently started scenting them. I was never too concerned with them smelling like anything other than what I was using. Sure, I would throw in some of my standard essential oils, but that was more for its properties and benefits than smell.

Last year, when I began making products for my family, my interest in smell was piqued. So, I dived deeper into fragrancing. I quickly learned that it's not so easy to find out what makes up a "fragrance". After researching further, I figured out why.
According to the FDA, fragrances fall under the trade secret formula law. This means that manufacturers don't have to disclose the ingredients of their fragrances. In short, you and I will never know exactly what makes up a particular scent. Fragrances can have 100's of ingredients and because of the trade secret law, it's often used as a facade for harmful chemicals and preservatives.

The FDA has said that they regulate what exactly is allowed, but that is far from a guarantee of safety. Some of the ingredients allowed are harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, parabens and phthalates. Many of these ingredients are known to cause reproductive system toxicity, cancer, allergy/asthma flare ups, migraines and other negative health issues.

So, why in the world would anyone ever want to use synthetic fragrance or products with synthetic fragrance in them?
Firstly, fragrance oils are much cheaper. Just like with many things harmful to the Earth and its inhabitants, it boils down to money. Synthetic fragrances filled with phthalates that make them last longer, are much cheaper than organic essential oils. Given the choice, I think people would choose to pay a little more now, than pay even more in health bills, pain and suffering later.

Secondly, there are some scents that can't be mimicked naturally. For example, have you ever smelled a banana scent or eaten a banana flavored candy? It smells and tastes "good", but not truly like and actual banana. It's more of an exaggerated version of what a banana smells and tastes like. Unfortunately, people have gotten accustomed to these synthetic scents and flavors and strayed away from what nature has given us.

There are other alternatives to using synthetic fragrances to add wonderful aromatics to your products. Some of which are absolutes, attars, hydrosols, infusions, extracts and essential oils.

An essential oil is a liquid that is most frequently steam distilled, cold pressed or extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils contain the true essence of the botanical it was derived from and are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Essential Oils offer a myriad of therapeutic psychological and physical benefits and are great for use in aromatherapy and skin applications when diluted.

A few of my favorites are, chamomile, fennel, frankincense, lavender, lime peel, patchouli, sweet orange...
I will be highlighting these and others in follow up posts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Health Freedom Expo

I happened to read about this expo on the internet a day before it began. I'm really glad that I did, because I gathered a ton of great information and met some truly inspiring people! A few of my favorite vendors there were Animal Acres, Leaf Cuisine, Natural Solution and Bragg Live Foods.

Animal Acres: You know how you keep meaning to get in contact with a person or group and never have? That's me with Animal Acres. I have loved them from afar for so long and was extremely excited when I found out they had a booth at the expo. What a blessing!
I enjoyed chatting with the volunteers about the animal sanctuary, veganism, volunteer opportunities and the Veggie Pride Parade.
I am so excited to get started helping Animal Acres rescue and rehabilitate abused farm animals. I hope to get a group together soon to go take a tour and lend a hand wherever it's needed.

Leaf Cuisine: I've tried quite a few of their raw food offerings through Whole Foods and have been pleased. It was nice to see them there preparing fresh food and educating expo goers on raw and living cuisine. I stopped by and grabbed some "Kickin' Kale Crisps". They were delish and I plan on loading up my dehydrator with my own version soon!

Bragg Live Foods: This was one of the busier booths at the expo. I passed by several times and they were always overflowing with curious people. Patricia Bragg was there speaking with everyone about the benefits of the Bragg line and living a healthy lifestyle. I was able to get in and grab a few samples and purchase some of their new salad dressing. They had several new items to check out and try. I've been a fan of Bragg's ever since I discovered their Apple cider vinegar. It's truly the best tasting and most nutritious on the market.
While there, I was given a bottle of their new ACV drink. Wowza, it was good! I've mixed up my own at home before but they must have the ratio just right because it was wonderful. I will be purchasing this again as soon as it's available in stores.

Natural Solution: There were several vendors selling Himalayan salt, but none were the brand that I am familiar with. I happened to see a friend from my raw foods group while I was there and he recommended I try Natural Solutions. He said that the quality was wonderful and the prices were great. He was right and I stocked up on some at whole sale price!
There is nothing like using HS in your food preparation or body applications. The health benefits are remarkable for both the inside and outside of your body.

Before leaving the expo, I received a coupon to The New World Fair in Pasadena, May 16-17, 2009. There will be exhibitors, live music, speakers and even an open drum circle!

I won't miss this one! If your interested, check out the website for more info.


I made a quick stop through the farmers market on Friday and walked up on a table full of these fluffy bunches of greens. Curious, I inquired about them and was told that they are called, quelites. I asked if I should juice them or throw them in a salad. The vendor told me that they are most commonly sauteed. Hmmm...I didn't have enough time to do my usual chatting away about the veggies and such, so I grabbed a huge bunch and away I went.

I'm sad to say that they sat in the fridge for a couple of days before I even looked at them again. Sunday night, I reached in the bag and ripped off a handful to quickly prepare a late dinner. Wow, they were dusty!

I tried to get away with just rinsing them, but these puppies were down right gritty. I had to soak them and really get into the nooks and crannies to release the sand. After they were cleaned and dried, I lightly sauteed them and gave them a try. I was in love!
They have a firm texture like kale or mustard greens, but not as sharp a flavor. Comparable to spinach, but with a different taste all their own. I mean it ya'll, I love them!

I haven't been able to find much information on quelites other than they are Mexican greens. Quelites could mean any of the many varieties or a mix of them. I'm unsure which type I had, but you can bet I will be back at the FM this Friday for some more!

I enjoyed my handful so much that I prepared the rest of the bunch with some tempeh on Monday. Here's what I came up with.

*This recipe makes 2 medium size servings or 1, I love quelites so much I would eat 2 more bunches if I had them, no way am I sharing type servings.

The Sautee
1 bunch of quelites (I soaked them in salt and baking soda for awhile and then rinsed)
2tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of your pan with the EVOO.
Once heated add in garlic and sautee until just soft.
Add red pepper flakes and quelites on top of that.
Sautee until just wilted.
Once they start to wilt, remove them from the heat. You want them to retain their texture. Set aside.

The Tempeh
1/2 block of mixed grain tempeh
juice of 1 orange
1/4tsp garlic
1/4tsp ginger
1tbs mushroom sauce
1tsp maple syrup (you can also use brown sugar, jam, etc)
pepper to taste

Slice tempeh about 1/4 inch thick. Sautee on both sides until brown.
The evoo from the quelites should be enough, but feel free to add more if you need it.
Once brown, remove tempeh and set aside.
De glaze the pan with orange juice and remaining ingredients.
Reduce down until you have a lightly thick sauce.
Serve over tempeh along side of quelites.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Curry Collard Wraps

Here's what I threw together to take to work today.
Quick, easy, flavorful and filling!

Collard leaves- Vit A, K, phytonutrients
Take out the stem and wash these well by submerging them in a bath of salt water.
Rinse and let drain in colander or on a towel.
If you want more pliable greens, let them sit for awhile or even over night. They become more limp, the longer you let them sit. I like mine crunchy, so I just rinse and drain.

large carrots roughly chopped- high in fiber, Vit A
1/2c cashews- high in magnesium, rich in oleic acid
1/3c raisins- antioxidant, boron rich
1 clove garlic- can regulate blood pressure and increase immune system
2tbs extra virgin olive oil- rich in oleic acid, regulates cholesterol levels
1/8tsp ground cumin- aids in digestion, high in iron
1/4tsp ground ginger- antioxidant, settles upset stomach
1tsp Bragg's liquid aminos- Non GMO amino acids
1tbs lemon juice- Vit C, potassium, bioflavonoids
1tsp curry powder
sea salt and pepper to taste

Pulse first four ingredients in a food processor until broken down.
Add next six ingredients and blend until well combined. Don't over mix or you will have mush. You want the mixture to still be chunky.
Add s and p to taste.
Wrap in collard leaves and enjoy!