Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MORE SWEET INFO: Mary Kat, "The Plastic-Free Chef" Blogger, gives advice for a more plastic-free bathroom!

Previously, I posted about Mary Kat, a young and smart blogger in the Bay area. Her blog "The Plastic-Free Chef" gives advices and tips on how people can live a "less plastic" kitchen life. Why less plastic? She explains in her blog (http://theplasticfreechef.com/) and in my interview with her (see previous post). Overall, plastic hurts the enviroment and your body.  We, Americans, are very wasteful when it comes to plastic.

This made my mind THINK: what about the bathroom? I stared in my shelves, filled with plastic-filled lotion and potion bottles, make-up containers, and dental care items. What is a girl to do? Well, think outside the box. I asked Mary Kat for advice, and her is what she told me:

Mary Kat:
Personal care is pretty difficult. I'm still working on it. The easiest thing you can do is replace plastic bottles of hand soap with bar soap, and use bar soap in the shower instead of body wash. You can try using bar shampoo instead of liquid shampoo. There's also the "no-poo method" where you use baking soda to wash your hair, but that didn't work for me. It worked for a few days, but then a nasty residue started building up in my hair- yuck! My mum uses that method though and it works for her. Another thing you can try is bar conditioner. I got my conditioner bar at Lush. I use it to shave too. I make my own deodorant with this recipe:
http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/2009/03/quick-stick-deodorant.html


Dental care is probably the most difficult. I use a Preserve toothbrush. They're made from recycled plastic. For dental floss I use EcoDent. It comes in a paper box instead of a plastic one, but the floss itself is nylon. I've also tried Lush Toothy Tabs, but the baking soda in them made my gums and my mouth hurt. There's also tooth powder. I bought it from this place once and I liked it: http://store.aquarianbath.com/index.php/herbal-products-salves-tinctures-flax-seed-neck-wraps/tooth-powders-natural-toothpaste-alternative-toothpowder.html

Right now I'm using a combination of tooth powder and Tom's toothpaste, which comes in a plastic tube. But you can send the empty tubes back to them and they'll recycle them for you. For mouthwash I use vodka diluted with water. I use one part vodka and three parts water.

This place sells a bunch of plastic-free makeup:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/twinkbeauty?ref=shop_sugg
I haven't bought any but I'm going to get some soon. Another thing you can do is use coconut oil to remove eye makeup. You can also use coconut oil as moisturizer. For face wash I use facial bar soap from Lush.

Thank you Mary Kat for your wonderful "plastic-free" tips!
 Be sure to check out her blog: http://theplasticfreechef.com/

Happy Baking,
Kimm

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SWEET INTERVIEW: Mary Kat, blogger of "The Plastic-Free Chef," talks about reducing your use of plastic and living a HEATHIER life!

Not only do I live a sweet life, I try and live a better and "more green" life. This is fairly easy to do in the greater Seattle-area. We recycle. We carpool. We walk. We compost. We re-use anything we can. One day, I stumbled upon a fantastic blog called "The Plastic-Free Chef." Mary Kat, the San Francisco-area blogger, is only 17 years young, but lives in a "plastic-free" kitchen and blogs about tips and tricks anyone can use in their busy life.



My latest interview talks about her plastic-free life and why she is encouraging everyone and anyone to be more conscience of what they use, especially in the kitchen.

Brief bio: My name is Mary Kat and I'm 17. I love food. I've been cooking and baking for as long as I can remember. Last year I started trying to live without plastic, and the kitchen was the hardest place for me to eliminate plastic from. So I started my blog to share the tips and recipes I had compiled.

1) Your blog focuses on living a "plastic free" life. What made you want to start living a plastic free lifestyle?


My plastic epiphany happened in the toilet paper aisle of Safeway one night last summer. "Look at all this plastic-wrapped toilet paper!" my mum said, "This is so wasteful." I looked at all the toilet paper wrapped in plastic that was made to go straight into the landfill and I thought, "Wow. This is kind of crazy." My mum and I always used reusable bags and we never drank bottled water, but I suddenly realized that we needed to be doing more. We produced tons of plastic waste every day and I realized that it wasn't sustainable. So when we got home, I went online and read about plastic. I learned that it never breaks down, that it leaches chemicals, that its accumulating in the ocean and that animals are eating it, which is killing them. So I decided that to the best of my ability, I would try to live without disposable plastic. I started looking for plastic-free alternatives to the plastic-packaged items I was using every day. My favorite resource for plastic-free alternatives is MyPlasticFreeLife.com, a blog started by a woman named Beth Terry who tries to live a plastic-free life.


2) Why made you start a blog about living plastic free? And, how long have you been blogging?

The kitchen has been the hardest place for me to cut down on disposable plastic. I figured out it was probably difficult for other people to cut down on disposable plastic in their kitchens as well, so I started a blog to compile all my plastic-free tips and recipes. My goal is to share with my readers my plastic-free tips and recipes and inspire them to give plastic-free cooking a try. As of a few days ago, my blog is six months old.

3) Your blog gives tips on how to "change" your plastic-using ways. What are the 3 easiest things people can do to reduce their use of plastic?

Using your own reusable cloth shopping bags and produce bags instead of disposable ones will help you cut down on plastic waste a lot. Using a reusable glass or metal water bottle instead of buying bottled water will help you cut down on plastic waste a lot too, and it will also save you a lot of money! Some bottled water costs up to 1000 times more than the stuff from your tap! The other easy thing you can do is buy things from bulk bins instead of buying them prepackaged. I use cloth produce bags, glass jars and metal tins when I buy things in bulk.

4) Why should people care about living a "more plastic free" lifestyle?

Plastic is a material made from fossil fuels and chemicals. Fossil fuels are some of our most precious resources, and yet we're using them to create single-use plastic packaging. Once we throw our plastic away, it often ends up in the ocean, where the sun and waves break it down into smaller and smaller pieces. You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There are five large gyres in the ocean created by the way the Earth spins on its axis. These gyres sweep up ocean trash and create toxic plastic soups. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest one. Since plastic is designed to last for centuries, it doesn't fully biodegrade for a very long time. The pieces of plastic in the ocean are ingested by marine life who mistake them for food. When the animals consume too much plastic, they die. Another problem with plastic is that the chemicals in it have been found to leach out, which is concerning when you consider the fact that so much of our food is packaged in plastic. Two of the most infamous chemicals used in plastic are bisphenol-a (BPA) and phthalates. BPA and phthalates are both endocrine disruptors. A recent study showed a link between BPA and breast cancer. A few studies have linked phthalates to liver cancer. Although plastic may seem harmless, its actually very problematic and harms people, animals and the planet.

5) You are an avid cook and baker! What is your favorite dish you have cooked?

That's a really tough question! I think my favorite recipe of all time is my triple layer chocolate cake. Its my favorite cake. Everything about it is amazing! I haven't made it plastic-free yet, but as soon as I do I'm putting the recipe up on my blog.

For more info about "The Plastic-Free Chef" check out:

http://theplasticfreechef.com/ <-- Her wonderful blog!

facebook: Like "The Plastic-Free Chef"
twitter: @PlasticFreeChef

Happy Baking! -Kimm



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My favorite tools: which ones to pick!

A HUGE part in the cooking and baking process is, well, the tools and pans you use. Yes, I have blogged about cookware/bakeware (I am 110% cookware GEEK, please ask me if you have any questions!) There are so many gadgets and tools on the market, it is hard to figure out which ones you truly need, and ones that are needed only for special dishes.

Below, is a detailed list of what tool is a staple and what material (plastic, stainless steel, nylon, etc) to look for to "get the most life" out of it. Remember, all tools have handles, and I highly recommend to "feel" in your hand to make sure you like it.

THE TOOL BASICS:
- Mixing Bowls: Needed for all-purpose cooking and baking actions. Pick 3: small-medium-large.
*Buy: Stainless Steel, first. Glass is decent, but it might break/crack. Plastic tends to be "soft," bendy, and wares down the fastest.

-Cutting Boards: Needed for all-purpose chopping/dicing/slicing. Pick 2: one medium, one large.
*Buy: Wood is the best and is "nicest" to your knife's blade, but it takes extra time to "care." Plastic is a great second choice, because it is dishwasher safe and pretty cheap. Buy one with a 1/2 inch thickness. Yet, it does ware down and plastic shavings could easily get in your food. Avoid any "super thin" plastic cutting boards.

-Knife: Needed for chopping/dicing/slicing. (I need to do a blog about knives....) Pick 3: one chef's knife (8 inch or 10 inch), one serrated knife (also called bread knife), and one paring knife (small knife). You will use those 3 sizes the most.
*Buy: High carbon stainless steel with a nice handle. "Forged" knives tend to be better than "stamped" knives.

-Pots and Pans: Needed for cooking. Remember, buy pans for YOUR lifestyle. Family of 5? Only two? Or just yourself? Most of us can get away with 2-4 decent pans.
*Buy: Either hard anodizied non-stick or stainless steel. The 3 sizes people will use most: Medium sauce pan (about 5 quarts), medium skillet (10 inches), and large skillet (12-14 inches). If you cook for more, you will need more sizes.

TOOLS-GADGETS: The most popular!
-Whisk: Stainless steel whisk head with stainless steel or silicone handle.
Spatula: Nylon or silicone head (both are heat safe to 400 degrees F) with stainless steel or silicone handle.
-Large spoons: Stainless steel.
-Turner: Nylon or silicone head, with stainless steel or silicone handle.
-Ladel: Stainless steel.
-Peeler: Stainless steel or nylon/silicone.
-Scoops: Stainless steel.
-Measuring cups/spoons: Stainless steel.
-Pastry Brush: Silicone or nylon.
-Tongs: Stainless steel.
-Mesh Strainer: Stainless steel "mesh" with either metal or nylon/silicone handle.
-Grater: Stainless steel.

Overall: Stainless steel has a very long "life." The downfall: stainless steel pans are a pain to clean and keep polish, and you will have to add more fat/oil when you are cooking with them. Stainless steel tools tend to be more expensive than nylon/silicone. Most people, including myself, have a combination of both.

My top 3 tips :
1) Have a budget: Tools can get pricey! Set a limit.
2) Know what you truly need/use: Never grate cheese? Only bake brownies rarely? Don't know what a pastry brush is? Know what you use on a daily basis.
3) Always "feel" the tool in your hand. Comfort is key, especially with cookware.

Happy Baking!
Kimm




Monday, May 14, 2012

MORE SWEET SUCCESS: Private party for The Overlake School.



Another success story: a private, suprise, party at The Overlake School in Redmond, WA. I was asked by the host to produce enough  mini cupcakes for approx. 100 people and that would delight everyone. No problem! Why? The host gave me enough time to prepare, gave me her cupcake budget, and a request on flavors (chocolate for sure, and no nuts at all!).

I created three delicious flavors for the party:
1) Double chocolate cloud: Rich chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream, topped with ganache.
2) Poppin' Bottles: Strawberry cake with champagne (Yes, CHAMPAGNE!) buttercream, topped with a slice of real strawberry.
3) Milk and Cookies: Chocolate chip cake with chocolate-freckled whipped cream.

The cupcakes looked BEAUTIFUL on my brand new, 5-tier cupcake stand! Best of all: they were a hit and everyone enjoyed them. Working with an organized host made the cupcake order go smoothly and successfully. I look forward to working with them in the future.

Brief info: The Overlake School, is a private, non-religious school (5-12 grade) in Redmond, WA, that thrives on education and the upbringing of their students. A small, yet spacious, school it is recognized as one of the most outstanding educational schools in the entire state of Washington. I feel honored that I am working with them.

Happy Baking!
Kimm

Thursday, May 3, 2012

No, non-stick cookware won't give you cancer!

Yup, I am 100% cookware geek! I am always surrounded by cookware in my daily life. Not only do I use it on a daily basis, I SELL it. Since I am a cookware salesperson, I've to have knowledge of the pots and pan I am informing people about. (I work for Meyer Cookware, the USA'S largest cookware manufacture!)

There are many misconceptions about non-stick cookware: being "cheap," not long-lasting, and won't "brown" as well as stainless steel. Trust me, after cooking in the food industry for 8 years,being an avid cook at home, attending culinary school, selling cookware, I know what to look for so your pans won't die on you!

Here are answers to many commonly asked questions people ask me about non-stick cookware:
*Note: "non-stick cookware" can also be called:
-Coated cookware
-Hard anodized non-stick (which I recommend!)
-Finished cookware

1) Non-stick coatings cause can cancer since they contain PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFOA (Polymer Optical Fiber Amplifier), RIGHT?

Answer: Nope. Why?  "POFA is NOT part of the finished product of non-stick cookware or bakeware. While used during the manufacture process of the product and while there is a small trace in the finished non-stick liquid when it is shipped to the applicator, all of the PFOA is driven off in the curring process. The finished pan does not contain any measurable PFOA after proper curing." ( "The Guide to Cookware and Bakeware" by CMA: Cookware Manufacturers Association.) Thus, when the non-stick coating is PROPERLY applied to the pan itself, it is usually done at 800 degrees F, at that tempature any chemical/human/animal will die.
But, I know I cannot "change a person's mind." If they do not want to use non-stick pans, let them buy stainless steel. Yet, don't forget all the other non-stick coating surfaces people use on a daily basis: waffle makers, panini presses, egg pans, and electric griddles. Most of us have consumed food that was made on a non-stick surface.

2) Isn't POFA/PTFE present in other products I use? How can I reduce my level of all these chemicals???

Answer: YUP. More POFA/PTFE is present, in items, than non-stick cookware:
pizza boxes, frozen food boxes, take out boxes, french fry boxes, carpet cleaners, some furniture finishes, cosmetics, nail polish, and microwave popcorn bags.
Want to live a more "chemical free" lifestyle? I recommend: working out on a regular basis, drinking water, cooking more meals than ordering take-out, and avoid pre-package foods.

3) So, what makes a non-stick  "better" than one another?

Answer: The coating. What people do not realize is there are MANY companies out there that make non-stick coatings. DuPont was the first to invent it and owns many non-stick patents.  Good cookware lines will work with good non-stick coating companies for their pans. Look for a line that will advertise who makes their non-stick coatings.

4) What is exactly in a non-stick coating?

Answer: It is composed of 4-5 major ingredients: ( "The Guide to Cookware and Bakeware" by CMA: Cookware Manufacturers Association.)
1) A resin or binder that adheres to the pans surface
2) A pigment to color the coating
3) The release agent - PTFE or silicone compound
4) The carrier - either an organic solvent or water that "carries" the ingredients but which evaporates when the coating is cured at high heat
5) Option reinforcing agents to provide wear protection

5) I heard "ceramic" non-stick coatings are 100% chemical free! Why are not they more popular?

Yes, there are non-stick coatings that are "ceramic" based, which is  "more green" and better for the enviroment, it works just as well as a "regular non-stick" pan, and easy to manufacture. The downfall: not very durable and chips pretty easy. Thus, with regular use, it will "die" faster than a hard anodized non-stick pan.

6) Which is better: non-stick in a stainless pan or non stick in a hard anodized pan?

Nonstick in a hard anodized pan. The coating "adheres" better to hard andoized aluminum than stainless steel, no matter how "amazing" your coating is.

7) What is the proper way to clean your non-stick pan?

-Always hand wash
-No non-stick sprays....EVER! This includes your bakeware! (Non-stick sprays contain an ingredient called propellent, which is present because of the aresol can. The propellent really "sticks" itself to your pots and pan, causing a caramel gunk build up. Always use real fat when cooking!)
-Med-high-medium heat only. It is rare that you need high heat when cooking. Constant high heat kills almost any pan.
-Have a stain? Make a paste with baking soda and water with "rub" the stain, leave it on for 15 minutes, and wash off. Repeat if needed.

8) Why do restaurants always carry stainless steel, no non-stick cookware?

Restaurant cooking is 100% different than cooking at home. In restaurants, you use constant high heat and need to wash it in a professional dishwasher, which is VERY hot and strong. Almost all non-stick cookware will die in that enviroment. Even stainless steel pans will eventually warp and becoming uneven.

What to look for when buying non-stick cookware:
-Buy hard anodized non-stick! (Not just "non-stick" cookware)
-Buy one with a silicone or stainless steel handle that you like
-Buy a line that works with a great non-stick coating company to create their non-stick finish


Overall, cookware should be fun and not a headache or mess. Knowing basic facts will help you choose the RIGHT cookware for your needs. Any more questions, please ask, I love to help.

Happy Baking!
-Kimm