Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sukin, organic or not?

We recently came across the Australian brand Sukin Organics, a natural skin care brand. It is not certified organic but, at first glance seems to be fairly natural.  It was on sale at the Chemist Warehouse this weekend so I bought the body wash, shampoo, conditioner, a couple of skin creams and cleanser and thought I'd give it a go.

This morning I was feeling quite virtuous - I did Pilates, watered the plants, ground my own coffee, did the washing, cleaned and then used the Sukin products.  I've seen differing reviews on the internet so decided to do my own research, is Sukin fine even though its not certified organic? Or, are we being Suk-ed in?

The chemical low-down 

Sukin isn't certified organic and there are still some chemical ingredients in their products, including (from the body wash and hand wash):

The links are to each ingredient's info page on EWG's Skin Deep - Cosmetic Database a really useful page that has loads of information about different brands, products and the ingredients in various cosmetic products.  Go on it, type in the names of the products that you use on a regular basis and start freaking out about how bad they are! haha.  The last two ingredients listed (Phenoxyethanol and Benzyl Alcohol) also make the Green Beauty Guide's list of 100 ingredients to avoid.

This could be completely wrong, and is based on my very limited chemistry knowledge (ie high school), but I wonder if the two skin conditioning agents are required because the alcohol products that are used as a preservative are drying?  I think this a way too over simplification (ignoring the solvent and binding agents) but just a thought.

However, from what I understand, these products although chemicals may be a better alternative to other chemicals that are used.  So the best of a bad bunch maybe??  Also Sukin says on its website that where preservatives are used they are "within the recommended usage levels as outlined by the relevant parties in Australia, the US, EU and Japan".  The EU and Japan consistently seem to have high safety standards and ban many products that are considered safe in the US so this is comforting.  Sukin also discloses all the ingredients that they use here.

But... on the plus side

On the plus side, Sukin products have no sodium lauryl sulphate, synthetic fragrances, animal derivatives, harsh detergents, propylene glycol, artificial colours or parabens and they are 100% vegan and 100% carbon neutral.  So they are a LOT better than your average cosmetic product.  The other advantage is that the products are well priced.  From what I understand, being certified organic is an expensive process, if Sukin became certified organic the prices would probably increase as well.

I used the shampoo and conditioner this morning and loved them.  The shampoo did seem a bit drying on my hair (with its 12 year build up of blonde dye) but the conditioner sorted it out fine.  The body wash was also really good.  Great fragrance and it still felt like normal body wash.  Maybe it was also reassuring to have something a bit more natural after looking at the long list of chemicals in the shower for the last few weeks.  Love the Rose Hip Oil and Rose Hip Hydrating Day Cream as well.  And the Rose Hip Oil is certified organic so no complaints there!

Also, remember that the four ingredients listed above are just four out of maybe 20 ingredients and the rest of them look fine (I may be wrong on this as well, but I'm in no way an expert at nasty ingredient spotting).  So if you're walking through Chemist Warehouse (as an aside, have you noticed how, on the sign, just before the words "Australia's Cheapest Chemist" it says "is this?" in VERY small letters.  Like as if they may have got done for misleading advertising once...?) and tossing up between Sukin and another brand, 95% of the time Sukin would be the way to go (the 5% is in case you come across a certified organic brand).

Maybe its a gradual process and in a few months/years I won't be happy with any potentially harmful ingredients but for now Sukin is a whole lot better than what we previously had (Palmolive and St Ives body wash and a collection of different shampoo/conditioners) so I think the change is only positive!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Nut free pesto

One of the foods I was most annoyed about missing out on after becoming allergic to nuts was pesto.  Not so annoyed about feeling compelled to consider raw almonds as a healthy alternative snack when hungry.  The skin prick tests unfortunately showed positive for pine-nuts so, even though I think they are considered a seed, they are off the list which is where the issues with pesto arise!

I had a big bunch of silverbeet to use up today and saw online that some people had used it to make pesto so I've had a crack at making my own pesto without pine-nuts and... it was delicious!  I was a bit sceptical at first but was is actually really good, didn't taste like silverbeet at all. Definitely better than steaming it. And a much better option than plain boiled silverbeet.

I don't have a food processor so made it with the stick mixer which seemed to work pretty well.  I also partially steamed the first lot of silverbeet but didn't bother with the second lot and it didn't seem to make any difference. I also didn't really drain/dry the steamed silverbeet and didn't get any excess liquid (a common concern of the online recipe writers).

  • A bunch of silverbeet (I used about 6-7 stems)
  • Bunch of parsley (maybe a cup or so)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 120 g feta
  • 50 g Parmesan
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
Put the silverbeet and parsley in a bowl (or food processor) with the feta and some Parmesan.  Whizz it up until all the silverbeet has been fully mulched up, it will go this really amazing green colour.  Drizzle in the olive oil during the food processing (or if stick mixing, just stir it through at the end).  

Pesto and peas
I mixed in some more Parmesan at the end with some of the olive oil and gave it a final mix with the stick mixer.  

I actually found that I liked it better with less oil.  A lot of the recipes call for about a cup of oil (250ml), I didn't use anywhere near that much.  It was actually really tasty with no oil as well so that's a healthy option to consider if you're really keen. 

And no nuts? Well I thought it was fine, but good to road test with a peanut-butter-nutter:
Me: so how did you like the pesto?
WB: yeah it was good.
Me: did you miss the nuts?
WB: no.
Me: so it was fine with no nuts?
WB: yeah didn't think about it.

Good chat.  But it appears its fine without the pine-nuts.

I like coriander pesto so might make the same recipe with coriander next time (WB thinks coriander tastes metallic so will be an interesting road test with that one).  Also the pesto could be good with some lemon juice squeezed through.   Apparently you can also turn it into a dip by adding sour cream.  Could be an idea for the weekend - I even remembered to buy sour cream at the supermarket so good to go. 

Its also great as a pasta sauce - fettuccine, pesto, peas mushrooms and chorizo made for a pretty easy mid week dinner.  Slightly better photo than the kale and quinoa salad below. 
Pasta with pesto, mushrooms and chorizo

Monday, 22 July 2013

Kale and quinoa salad

I got a market vege bag from Erin at work today - filled with loads of things I never usually cook so a good opportunity to experiment... and a good opportunity to look at recipes online and update my Pinterest recipe board. Tonight I decided to start off with the kale (fennel or radish seemed a bit too much for a Monday), I've never cooked it before, or eaten it for that matter, so did a bit of googling on the way home. I found this recipe from Runner's World. Quinoa and kale salad with avocado and egg. Very healthy option for a rainy Monday night.. must have been the post spin endorphins kicking in!

I changed the recipe slightly and mixed fresh chopped flat leaf parsley in with the quinoa and sprinkled some spring onions over the quinoa and added cottage cheese, yum.   

  • A few stems of kale, leaves roughly town off the stems, mixed with sea salt and, olive oil and pepper on a baking tray, per heat oven to 175 deg 
  • Enough quinoa (I did just under a cup - and have leftovers for lunch), cooked to packed directions, then with finely chopped parsley mixed through it with olive oil and sea salt/pepper
  • One egg per person, I filled a frying pan with a few cm of water and did a half poach, half fry egg cook. 
  • Half an avocado, roughly chopped
  • One stem of spring onion, diced
  • Couple teaspoons cottage cheese (optional) 
Cook the kale for 15 mins in the oven, turning once.  At the same time, cook the quinoa.  While the quinoa is cooking prepare the spring onion, parsley and avocado.  Heat water in frying pan and cook the egg(s).  Once the quinoa has cooked stir through the chopped parsley. 

Assemble on plate: kale, quinoa, spring onion then place the egg on top and cottage cheese and avo on the side. Season with salt and pepper. Delish! 

Next up, fennel...  (and excuse the average photography, too hungry!)