Friday, February 27, 2009

Adventures in homemade greenness

I promised that this was going to be the year when I got better at homemade greenness. And I fully intend to follow through on that promise.  There are so many areas where I waste money and resources buying premade stuff - cleaning products, facial care products and food. 

The first thing I decided to tackle was food. Specifically, seitan. If you don't know, one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat. You don't have to go completely vegetarian - there are campaigns out there such as Meatless Monday which provide inspiration to go vegetarian one day a week. I am already a vegetarian, but I confess to being a bit of a processed-food vegetarian. So, on to seitan. Seitan is a protein made of wheat gluten (so, if you're gluten intolerant, obviously this isn't for you). It is also known as "wheat meat".  It's low in calories and fat, and super high in protein (for something vegetarian). But alas, it is expensive if you buy it ready made - $3.99 for 2.5 servings at Whole Foods. If you've never tried it before, I suggest buying one of those packets and giving it a go in a stir fry. They are usually sold in chiller cabinets with the fresh tofus and meat substitutes. Don't be afraid to flavor it up with soy sauce, hot sauce, whatever, and even let it go slightly crisp with the cooking. Delicious.

As I have an awesome cookbook called Veganomicon, which promised me that homemade seitan was easy to make, I decided to try my hand at making it. You have to buy vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast, but otherwise the remaining ingredients should be readily available and may be things you already have.  I think I spent about $8-9 at Whole Foods for enough organic vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast to make 8-10 batches of seitan. The recipe I used was similar to this one except I didn't put any flavorings in it other than 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and it only used 1 cup of flour, cooking up in 8 cups of broth/water. Instead of the flavorings, it has 1 tblspn olive oil. Each batch makes 3 servings.

The book authors were right  - it was super easy. And yummy. I even made the vegetable broth myself, from all the wilting vegetables that were cluttering up the fridge and making me feel guilty. Using homemade broth did make it a two-day process, but now I also have 8 individually frozen cups of broth, that I can use in other recipes, and it keeps the sodium content down.

I think I count this as a success! The pic is today's lunch, which was a seitan stir fry.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: Tom's of Maine Natural Moisturizing Body Bar

I am back after a long hiatus! Woot!

First things first, soap. I promised you a review of the soap that made me itch. This isn't it. I am having a mental block about writing that review because I still don't know if it was really the soap or if it was something else. So I have decided to move on, put it behind me and just say never again! But I will say that it was one of the $7 soaps, and I am done with $7 soaps for the time being anyway. $7 is too spendy for soap these days, what with the crushing recession and all.

So here we are, Tom's of Maine, which retails for about $3.99 but for which I am constantly finding $1 off coupons. Even on the front of the shelf where it is being sold. I wanted to like it so much, I really did. I use the Tom's calendula deodorant, which I reviewed here. It's still working pretty well for me, even after many months, and I really like the smell which is a nice spicy floral. I thought the matching soap would therefore make me smell delicious, not to mention like I had actually planned a combination of fragrances that matched. I had visions of feeling sophisticated.

The soap lathers very well, I have no complaints there. It doesn't contain animal ingredients, which is a prerequisite for me, and we know that Tom's has a good track record with natural products. It seems to be lasting well, and has a nice creamy feel. It even leaves my skin feeling nicely moisturized just as it is. It's just the smell that bothers me. You know when you have a dried flower arrangement and they sit out for about, ooh, a year, and get covered in dust? That's what this smells like. Dusty dried flowers, with a tinge of marigold somewhere underneath the dust. And it lingers on the skin for a while as well so I am going to work feeling like I'm wearing some old clothes of grandma's that I pulled out of the back of the closet. OK, that last sentence is a slight exaggeration - you actually have to inhale fairly deeply to smell it after 10-15 minutes.

Having said that, I do think the smell is more unisex than the deodorant. I can imagine it smelling quite pleasant on a man (provided he were brave enough to try a floral soap to begin with), and if you're sharing soap with your partner it could be a good choice. But, alas, it is not the soap holy grail that I wanted.

Three and a half stars.