Food Colorants in toothpaste and food

7 Oct

Last week I suddenly realized I had squeezed every last morsel out of my toothpaste tube and needed something fast for my nighttime brushing.  I ran down to the closest corner market and found not a single toothpaste product that didn’t contain fluoride, so I thought, “what the hell, if I’m consuming the fluoride anyway, I’ll just go with the cheapest product”.  When I got home with my chosen brand I was shocked when I spit out my teeth brushing juices to see if colored a bright pink-red.  Much like when I eat too much cherry flavored laffy taffy, jolly ranchers or gummy worms.  But I usually brush my teeth to get rid of that color and coating, not to put it on.

I turned over the tube and realized the magic ingredients of red dye 33 & 40 which made me feel not so fresh and so clean.  I know I should have looked more closely before I bought and dashed, but what I’m wondering now is what the heck is red dye 33 & 40? Does anybody know anything about colorants out there and want to share?  I don’t know many details myself, but I definitely don’t like it in my toothpaste.

I did find out in my readings that England and the EU have passed regulations banning food dyes/colorants based on two scientific studies by the FSA (Food Standards Agency), similar to our FDA.  The FSA found significant problems with the dyes and decreed that it was the agency’s duty to put consumers first.  In general our FDA operates on a different platform; they only get involved in product regulation when something already allowed on the market raises a health and safety alarm.  In other words products don’t have to be proven safe to be sold to consumers, but they will eventually be removed from the market if people become sick or ill from and studies then prove them to be damaging,  i.e, DES & DDT.  With these regulations made by the FSA to ban food colorants from the European market place Mars, Kraft, McDonald’s, and other corporations removed all the artificial colorings from their products and replaced them with natural colorings (beets, caramel, etc). If they already have the capabilities in place overseas to make naturally colored products they can easily make it so on our shelves, but will not do so if we don’t demand it. The coloring is simply a much cheaper route, and remember the food industry is an industry, not a health department, they are in the business of making money.


Alan, Greene, M.D., Feeding Baby Green. 2009.


Quiche Extravaganza!

1 Oct

The other night we celebrated Rosh hashanah and I brought homemade Spanikopita to the feast to welcome the year 5772!  Always after I make spanikopita I’m left with a hefty portion of filo dough and I can’t bear to waste it.  So last night I decided to make a quiche out of the remains and the goods in my fridge.  What I came up with was scrumptious:

Squash, Mushroom, and Corn Quiche

The first step is to either buy or make a pie crust (or forgo the crust and you have a frittata, just as delicious).  Or, as I did this time around, make a crust out of filo dough! Filo dough cooks up very light and flaky and is magical.  You can piece the sheets together like you’re making a paper-maiche covering on a balloon, the key to the process is to use melted butter (I prefer to melt on the stove top and avoid the microwave) as your “glue”. Everywhere the filo sheets overlap you need to have the butter gluing them together. Line 8-10 filo sheets on the bottom of any size pan you wish and you have your crust!  Since I we are making a quiche I choose the standard glass pie plate.


  • Filo dough (read above)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (or more if you really enjoy garlic)
  • 1 medium sized squash, diced (yellow summer squash)
  • 1/2 diced mushrooms (shitake)
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 fresh chopped small tomato
  • 3 Tbs fresh chopped dill
  • 3Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 cup parmesan, shredded or grated
  • 1 thinly sliced tomato

1. Pre-het oven to 350F

2. Saute Onion in olive oil about 2-3 min and add garlic.  Let cook for about 2 more minutes.  Add diced squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and let cook until tender and the liquid is absorbed; about 10 minutes.  The squash should be tender but not squishy, it is still going to cook in the oven for 30 minutes.  While this cooks whisk the eggs up in a bowl.  To the eggs add the corn (freshly sliced off the cob), dill, parsley, and cheeses.

3. When the squash and mushroom mixture is finished cooking add it to the egg mixture.  Stir well and pour into your pie plate.  Top it off with the parmesan cheese and nicely arrange the sliced tomatoes on the top.

Cook for 30-40 minutes.  When the egg isn’t running and the filo is golden brown and flaky you’re done!  If you let it cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into it it will set and solidify a little better.

*The joy of cooking for me is to play around and combine different ingredients following a basic skeletal plan of  a recipe.  I encourage you to use seasonal veggies from the markets for this dish.  So depending on the season the squash and corn can be replaced with broccoli, zucchini, spinach (if uses a green make sure you cook off the liquid so the crust doesn’t get soggy), etc.  You can also change the cheeses.  Monterey Jack works well as does white cheddar.  And if you prefer you can cook in butter instead of olive oil.  A trick to successfully shaving off the corn from the cob and not getting corn kernels bouncing all over your kitchen is to put a paper towel or kitchen towels under the corn cob so that the kernel will “stick” there.

Self Portrait Video

30 Sep

I made a class assignment to make a digital representation of myself and had so much fun making it that I wanted to share the end product!  If you are in the video and don’t want to be please let me know.  The file is rather large also so perhaps let it load on youtube before you play to avoid choppiness.  I hope you enjoy!

The leaky faucet experiment

28 Sep
Water flows from a faucet under a gen3 quaking...

Image via Wikipedia

Late at night when it’s super still and quiet, even in my apartment in New York at 1 in the morning I can hear everything, there is nothing more frustrating and impossible to sleep to than the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet. I just moved in a few weeks ago and every night I would listen to my shower head drip (from such a high distance on a ceramic tube the noise is pretty substantial), think of it in some psycho thriller movie where the main character is driven to insanity by this persistent noise.  I’d get out of bed and squeeeeeeze both hot & cold handles tight as I could until it felt like I might crack a wrist turning so hard.  I’d go back to bed and sure enough:drip, drip, drip. Just more of a delay in between drips this time.  Last week I decided to get more of a visual on how much potable water I was actually wasting in this way.  With the nozzles turned as tight as I could I put a pitcher under the shower head and timed the first few drips.  It was dripping at an extremely slow rate of about one drip every 45 seconds.  Over the course of 24 hours I let it accumulate in my bucket and then measured it out and I had just shy of a 1/4  cup (evaporative loss, transfer loss and splashing so I’m rounding it to 1/4 for ease).  Imagine this over a week: 1.75 cups, and over a month(~30 days): 7.5 cups, and over a year (365 days): 91.25 cups.  With 16 cups equalling a gallon that translates to 5.7 gallons in a year going directly down the drain. And this was an extremely slow drip on just one faucet!  I called the maintenance guy and had him come fix it.  Just think of your leaky faucet, how much is going down the drain?  If you have a drippy faucet I’d get it fixed, so much good drinking water right down the drain, and you can have fun testing out how much goes down, not to mention your can relieve your impending insanity by removing that maddening noise from your home!

Honey Facts: What’s this raw and local honey hype all about?

23 Sep

Growing up with my dad as a backyard beekeeper in Ohio made me fall in love with honey and really learn to love and appreciate bees. Many many years later I worked for Marshall’s honey selling local raw honey at the farmers markets.  Through that work I learned a lot about honey, especially from my good friend and co-worker Hellenmae.  I found that what is true for all foods so holds true for honey: it is not all created equal.  Without going into too much detail and exhausting your eyes reading this I wanted to post a few basic facts about honey:

1. There is not just a “normal” kind of honey.  There is generally the most commercially popular kind of honey which is usually a willdflower blend, heavily clover based or all clover.  And as far as commercial honey goes that honey could be diluted with HFCS, water, or bees that were subsisting on sugar water instead of flower nectar and heavily laden with antibiotics that were pumped into the hives because bees get sick easily from stress (moving and lack of food source can case stress) and are very susceptible to disease, especially mites.  Plus as flowers start disappearing or the season isn’t quite right (when heavy rains come and wash away the nectar/food source for instance) beekeepers feed the bees sugar water to keep them alive.  That’s fine, but the honey produced from bees living on sugar water shouldn’t be marketed as honey.  And adding HFCS keeps the honey sweet and makes it go a lot further in terms of quantity but keeps the cost of the honey down (the same reason HFCS is used as a sweetener in everything is that it’s simply much much cheaper than sugar or other natural sweeteners)

2. Raw Honey Facts:

  • You have an array of flavors to choose from!  Whatever the bees are feeding on is translated into the honey.
  • Raw means that the honey hasn’t been heated or boiled (usually kept at 118F or below).  Honey is a byproduct of bee metabolism so it is used to being at high temperatures (the internal temperature of an active buzzing beehive) and is best to be kept around 85-90F if you want to maintain its liquid characteristics.  Keeping raw honey at cool temps will cause it to crystalize (that way you know it’s raw at least!) and the process will accelerate the cooler it is.  But crystallized honey is just as great and tasty plus less drippy.
  • Honey never spoils (honey was found, still good, in the pyramids of Egypt).
  • It’s a natural antibiotic and was used as such for centuries.
  • The propolis (tree resin collected by bees to help with building the hive) is a natural immune booster for use human beings.  Whenever I feel a cold coming or get on an airplane I dose up with honey to give my system a boost.
  • Raw honey contains a huge array of vitamins, minerals, and active enzymes.  The list keeps growing and not everybody agrees on what exactly is contained in each bit of honey, but it’s generally agreed upon that it contains vitamins A, E, C and all the B-vitamins except for B12.
  • This isn’t for certain or not either, but it’s speculated that the darker the honey the higher the mineral content.
  • Also the darker the honey generally the less sweet and more robust the flavor, and the lighter it is is generally sweeter and less robust in flavor.
  • Local Raw Honey is used to treat local pollen allergies.  You would want a wildflower blend (unless you know exactly what your allergic to) that comes from within 50 miles of where you live.  It works like a vaccine, inoculating your system with the pollen that causes you allergies so you can build a immune response. You have to continuing dosing on the honey, depending on the severity of your allergies; 1 Tbsp in the morning and a Tbsp in the evening.  One in the middle of the day wouldn’t hurt.
  • Remember to keep honey’s intrinsic healthiness intact you must ingest it raw, so putting it into coffee or tea in the effort to treat pollen allergies or boost your immune system will not work if the water is boiling.  Wait until it has cooled (a good rule of thumb is if your drink has cooled down to the temperature you’re able to start drinking it it then you’re fine to stir in the honey).

And if you’ve read this far and aren’t completely bonkers with honey information and want to learn more, you can read this compelling article by Andrew Schneider about imported Asian honey that was banned in Europe but flooding US grocery shelves. Andrew Schneider is a two-time Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter and the article is amazing!  Check it out:

Soy Milk Pricing

23 Sep

 Something is amiss here….

Crafty Cooking in the Kitchen

23 Sep

Sometimes I get a hankering for food late at night, and obviously throughout the day too.  Most of the time, especially when it’s 1am like last night, I like to look through my cabinets and see what the ingredients I have on hand will allow me to make.  It’s a fun challenge and extremely satisfying when you have success.  It’s provision based cooking, in this case baking.  I looked through the fridge and freezer (where my flower and flax is kept to keep it from going rancid) and found chocolate chips and a banana and knew I was about to embark on some kind of banana bread.  No eggs or butter though in the apartment, so I threw in a bit of olive oil and in place of applesauce (that often replaces olive oil) I used some peaches I had canned over the summer.  To make it a bit healthier I cut down my flour and added rolled oats and ground flax seed.  It turned out great!
I’ll share the make-shift recipe, but I hope from reading this you’ve gotten a little inkling and inspiration to play around in the kitchen just like I use to when I was a little girl making witches brew stew in the back yard with everything that was rotting and found in my sandbox.  See how I’ve progressed!

Banana-Peach-Chocolate chip Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour (Massa Organic flower in this case from a local farmer)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup something sweet (either brown sugar or honey, or white sugar if that’s all you have)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil of some kind (canola, butter,olive..etc)
1 super ripe banana
1/4 cup applesauce/smashed canned peaches (if you don’t have this, add more milk or oil to the recipe, you need more “wet” if you take this part out)
1/8 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I also didn’t have this, most baked goods call for it, it adds a nice flavor, you can put in Kahlula instead, or in my case I put in a very dark honey from Marshall’s farm that has a taste of rum to it).1/2 cup chocolate chips (or raisons or nuts, or nothing, whatever you want!)

1. That’s it! Mix all the dry goods together first. Then the “wet” ones, smashing the banana into the consistency of baby food.  And then mix the dry and wet together.  Turn in the nuts/raison/chocolate chips at the end.  Preheat oven to 350F and bake in a small dish (this is one loaf of bread) for 25-35 minutes. 

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