Monthly Archives: November 2011

More Juice Please…

My kids like juice.  It’s their “drink treat” at a coffee shop and their once a day sippy at home.  I do 50% juice, 50% water and they slurp it up like little puppies.  Not bad right?  Well, before I pat myself on the back for limiting sugars and being balanced,  I clearly have missed some important information on Apple Juice.

In September, the Dr. Oz Show (* link to full test results) did a series of tests on apple juice and it’s levels of arsenic.  60% of apple concentrate is imported from China.  Though arsenic is outlawed as a pesticide in the US, it is not in other countries.  A abbreviated version of his findings are clipped below:

The EPA has a limit on arsenic in drinking water – the level allowed is 10 parts per billion. Currently, there is no limit on arsenic in apple juice. The Dr. Oz Show tested three dozen samples from five different brands of apple juice across three different American cities, and compared the levels of arsenic to the standard for water.

Of these, 10 samples came back higher than the arsenic limit allowed in drinking water.  Note: Lab results standard deviation is +/- 20%

Minute Maid Apple Juice

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 2 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 3 parts per billion


Apple and Eve Apple Juice

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 3 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 11 parts per billion



Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 4 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 16 parts per billion


Juicy Juice

Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 2 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 22 parts per billion



Lowest Sample for Arsenic: 3 parts per billion

Highest Sample for Arsenic: 36 parts per billion.”

Dr. Oz Answers Your Questions About Arsenic and Apple Juice

Dr. Oz’s site further details an explanation of research results, the current government standards, a FDA statement and statements made from Juice Companies in response to his findings.

So, no more apple juice?  Not necessarily… no surprise here, the ORGANIC apple juices tested all came back with safe levels of arsenic.  So kids can still have their beloved apul juuuuuusssss!  And here I thought the worst thing about apple juice was too much sugar!










Playful Interiors

I was JUST recommending Nina Farmer Interiors to a customer.  She was saying she moved into her home a year ago, has done very little renovation and is looking for someone with a keen eye to help pick colors and arrange things just right.

Nina did the design work for Swell and I am thrilled with the results.  The constant feedback since opening is what a beautiful space Swell is.  Thanks, Nina!

I am in love with her idea of painting the inside of shelving a bright, bold color.  It brightens up a dark spot and highlights the things held inside.

Healthy Holiday Eats

As the holidays roll in, we all indulge ourselves with festive food and drink.  This is also the beginning of flu/ cold season and I think the overload of sugars and viruses can’t be a coincidental overlap.

I thought I would turn to Jen, our all things nutrition guide, for some healthy tips to get through the holiday season healthily.

E:  We are in charge of vegetable dishes for our Thanksgiving meal.  I’m thinking squash something and maybe brussel sprouts, one of my personal favorites.  What are the most nutritious traditional ( or non-traditional) vegetables for a holiday meal?

J:  I love sweet potatoes, because they are a great color and we also eat with our eyes! Remember, vegetables that are bright in color are high in antioxidants because that is the plant’s defense mechanism against disease. So the pigment that gives sweet potatoes their bright orange/red color has a lot of vitamin A (beta carotene) darker the orange color, the more beta carotene it has! Mashed sweet potatoes with just a bit of butter, cinnamon and nutmeg are delicious. I don’t think butter is the enemy but if you use just a little, then it brings out the flavor. I also love kale this time of year! Kale can be cooked into hearty soups or can even made into chips! My daughter who is 2, loves the crunch of these. I wrote about it here:

Again, don’t be afraid to add a little salt to your cooking because it is the amount of salt in processed foods (canned soups, crackers, bagged chips) that we need to be careful of, not the small amounts that we add to our homemade meals to bring out flavors.


E:  Cakes, Pies, Cookies, etc. become a major issue with kids at each holiday gathering.  I want to let them indulge a little without having treats 7 days week.  Of course once they’ve seen a tray of treats, its hard to get anything else in them!

To sneak in some nutrition I’ve tried baking with alternative ingredients like apple sauce, agave, banana, chick pea flour, spelt flour, coconut oil, soy or nut milks, etc.  with some success and some failure.  Do you recommend any substitutes to help beef up the nutritional value of a treat?

J:  This time of the year is tricky with treats. I am a strong believer in not withholding sweets but eating them in moderation so that kids grow up knowing that food has nutritional value, what balanced nutrition means and why it is important. Individuals need to learn what is right for their palate and body while still find pleasure in food and eating with friends and family. I don’t think that foods should be labeled as “good” and “bad” because that is too simplistic a view. You can start to teach kids about how foods are made of different parts and that there are different purposes and value to different types of food.


I’m lucky because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but that’s because in Asian cultures, we often finish our meals with a piece of fruit instead of cakes or cookies. I’m not much of a baker because I don’t like to follow recipes and baking is very chemistry oriented (that’s probably why you have has some success and some failure with your alternative ingredients above…) but when I do bake this time of year, I like to make crumble. I made a great apple, pear and cranberry crumble with all local fruit. I used oats to add in some fiber. My sister-in-law also has a great recipe for zucchini crumble and everyone always thinks it is apple!


E:  Seasonal foods are ideal.  I have blogged about the Moraine Farm CSA already and it’s holiday share that we’ll be baking our veggie dishes from for Thanksgiving.  Since then you have informed me that Charlestown has it’s very own CSA!  Can you tell me more about where it is sourced from, it’s distribution and how to enroll?

J:  This past growing season was the first time that Charlestown has had a CSA distribution center and we had about 25 shareholders which was great! It was through New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and the CSA is called World Peas. New Entry is a partnership with Tufts University and its mission is to assist people with limited resources who have an interest in small-scale commercial agriculture, to begin farming in Massachusetts. The broader goals of New Entry are to support the vitality and sustainability of the region’s agriculture, to build long-term economic self-reliance and food security among participants and their communities, and to expand access to high-quality, culturally appropriate foods in underserved areas through production of locally grown foods. Many of the farmers that grow for World Peas were farmers in their home countries, but when they came here as refugees or immigrants, they didn’t have the resources to build their own farm. New Entry works with these farmers to provide resources and materials to build healthy crops in various places close to Boston. Some of the farmers that I have met are from Lowell and Dracut, but there are farmers that grow for World Peas in many other areas surrounding Boston.


In 2011, the distribution point was the Charlestown Lacrosse and Learning Center from 4-7 pm every Wednesday and it ran from mid-June until mid-November. I love that we got fresh, local produce while helping the local economy by creating jobs all at the same time! The growing season is over for this year, but stay tuned to this website for additional info to sign up in the spring. I also put up flyers around the community with brochures come the spring time.


E:  It’s not news that sugar depletes the immune system.  It makes sense that as we gorge out of butter rolls, pumpkin pie and red wine, that we are more susceptible to colds and viruses.  The “super foods” of summer are harder to come by, ie. blueberries, cantaloupe, avocado.  What foods pack the highest anti – viral super food punch in the winter months?  Do you have any suggestions on how to prepare such foods?  or recipe?

J:  I like to cook with a lot of garlic, ginger, herbs and spices. There is some evidence to suggest that garlic have positive effects on reducing heart disease, high blood pressure, reducing cancer risk and improving immune function. Ginger is widely revered for its healing properties and since ancient times has been used to improve circulation and help digestion. Ginger is great to flavor some green tea or other warm beverages after a meal. Adding a little citrus juice can also add flavor and vitamin C which is an antioxidant. Some spices that are nice to add to hearty stews or curries are turmeric and cumin. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and has strong antioxidant properties as well as anti-inflammatory effects. Cumin is often found in many curry mixes and is great with root vegetables and meats such as lamb and beef.


E:  We all have our own idea of a holiday meal, comfort foods and family recipes.  My favorite is a Mock Chop, a vegetarian version of chopped liver.  It’s full of the good stuff and tastes delicious.  What is your favorite holiday meal and do you have a favorite recipe?

J:  As I said before, I’m not much of a recipe cook and I tend to just shop and then get inspired by a combo of food network shows, recipe books with lots of pictures etc. It drives my family nuts because I can never give them a recipe for what I made.  I grew up eating a lot of Vietnamese food which is not typically what you would think of as traditional Thanksgiving food! Often on Thanksgiving my family would have a hot pot meal at the table where we would cook a bunch of stuff in a yummy broth… not much turkey in my diet until I was old enough to go to other people’s houses for Thanksgiving.

E:  Thanks Jen, as always, for thoughtful insight into how to eat well through the holidays.  Happy Thanksgiving ( a day late…) and Happy Holidays!

Sauté slowly 2 very large sweet onions with a little salt and pepper in a little vegetable oil until brown
Cook 3/4 cup dried organic green lentils in 3 cups vegetable broth until tender. Drain off liquid saving a little bit of it if mixture is too dry.
Hard boil 2 eggs
Put onions, cooked lentils, eggs and 4 to 5 whole walnuts in a food processor and pulse until all is blended and the consistency of chopped liver, as you like it. Don’t let it get pasty.  If it seems too dry add a little leftover broth
Put it in covered container, cool, and then refrigerate. It will congeal over 12 hours and taste better the day after it is made. Don’t add more seasoning until next day. Most likely it won’t need more.
Serve with crackers, celery, pita, etc.

Swell Press

The local Charlestown Patch has featured Swell as a place to shop local for the holidays.  Thanks for putting us out there Patch!

New Boutique Offers One More Place To Shop Local

Wheat: good vs. not so good

All this time I thought my Ezekiel Sprouted Wheat bread was the best thing out there and now ‘Wheat Belly’ by Dr. William Davis is claiming that our current form of wheat grain is no longer a healthy option.   He explains the wheat grain we currently consume is not the same make up as the wheat grain long ago.  The current wheat turns to sugar much faster in our systems and Dr. Davis claims is the cause of many health and behavioral issues.  He urges a totally wheat free diet to improve health, energy and weight loss.  I am intrigued, but since I am not an expert, I thought I would again turn to Jen Truong, who is and ask for the real 411.

Jennifer Truong is a faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and works at Children’s Hospital Boston doing research. The opinions expressed here are not intended to substitute for your health care provider’s advice, nor do her opinions necessarily reflect those of Tufts University or Children’s Hospital Boston. Jennifer also has a personalized nutrition consultation service. For more information on her services, please see her website at:

Emily: Hi Jen.  Huh.  What should we make of this?

Jen: I must admit, I had not heard of the “Wheat Belly” book until you mentioned it to me. My first thought about it from your brief explanation is that people in the United States are becoming more obese, particularly in the central abdominal region, because of our tendency to eat too many refined carbohydrates and of course high rates of physical inactivity. It is not that wheat is the enemy but that we eat wheat that is highly processed, which means that the bran portion of the wheat is removed which is rich in fiber and other important nutrients. People who accumulate fat in the central abdominal area instead of in the butt area tend to have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, so higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries etc. This can be further described by the apple versus pear shape. “Apple” people tend to have higher rates of heart disease, than “pear” people. Also a major problem that we have in this country is that our portion sizes are way too big.

Emily: So if our current wheat grain has been mutated to be this unhealthy product, why can’t we go back to growing the original grain that was a healthy option?

Jen: It is not really that our wheat grain has been “mutated”, but that through the milling and food processing that our food goes through, we are removing the wheat germ and bran layers that have a lot of fiber and B-vitamins and minerals that are important for health. We also need to be careful when label reading, if a product says that it has been processed and then enriched, that means that through the food manufacturing process, the “machines” have removed the original nutrients and then by food science, the manufacturer has managed to add it back in. That means that the food you are eating is not in its original state and is no longer what can consider a “whole food”. Food manufacturers do a good job of tricking us into buying a product by saying that it is “natural” it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is in its original state. Whole wheat is also not synonymous with whole grain. So you need to be careful when shopping. Something that is whole wheat is not necessarily whole grain (ie it may have gone through some refining process that removed the original nutrients)

Emily: I tried to do some online research and find out if there is movement of people growing their own wheat.  Proved hard to find information – no clubs or chat rooms like there are for having your own chicken coup or growing your own veggie garden.  It could be the next grow your own food trend.  Is it worth finding a local grower of old grain wheat to direct supply you to make your own breads?

Jen: I have a friend who buys his own unprocessed wheat and actually grinds it up in his basement and then bakes his own bread! That is a lot of work though, but ensures that you know where your bread is coming from! I’m sure if you asked some local farmers, maybe some that grow for the community supported agriculture projects around here, you might be able to find information on it.

Emily: Over the past few years I’ve watched the gluten-free world grow.  My local Whole Foods has a large section of gluten-free foods.  I have kind of dismissed that whole movement, thinking it’s really more for folks with celiac and a known diagnosed gluten intolerance.   What is gluten and why should I or should I not eat it?

Jen: Gluten is a protein component found in foods derived from wheat and related grain species like barley and rye. Individuals who have celiac disease should indeed avoid gluten containing products because it can make their illness much worse. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease (which means that the immune system of the affected person attacks itself for reasons that are unknown, and specifically in Celiac disease, the intestinal lining is attacked). People with celiac disease who eat gluten containing products will trigger this process and symptoms can be very variable (mild to severe) so it is sometimes difficult to diagnose. This disease often runs in families and is higher in certain racial groups (Caucasians). The gluten-free diet can be very restrictive so it is a personal decision whether or not you want to try it. In addition, the foods can be more expensive and certain brands are quite unpalatable. Ten years ago, the options were much more limited, so people who were following the diet had to spend a lot more money and had less selections to choose from. Now the options and costs are much more varied. I personally couldn’t follow the diet because I love pastas and pizza! It’s hard to find gluten-free options in those, but not impossible!

Emily: I buy whole wheat bagels, whole wheat wraps, Ezekiel bread, etc.  Everything 100% whole grain wheat.  If Wheat is no longer my top choice and  to be removed from my diet, what grains should I focus on?

Jen: Other things that you could try if you want to expand your horizons  could be couscous, quinoa, brown rice, or buckwheat. Some of these are not grains in the traditional sense of the agricultural term, but fill the “carbohydrate” portion that is traditionally held by grains. I love eating buckwheat soba noodles. You can get them at any Asian grocery store and they are great with any type of stir-fry, hot or cold!! My daughter who is nearly 2 also loves them. A cautionary tale with those noodles though is that they can be very messy and you will end up with brown goo smeared all over your dining room floor if you have a toddler!

Les Macarons

Drop what you’re doing and head to 864 Madison Ave… Laduree has hit the big apple.  I don’t know how I missed this, as it opened in August, but next trip to NYC this will be my first stop.

Laduree is a French bakery & tea salon that first opened in 1862.  It’s famous for its magnificent macarons and its elegant mint green Parisian decor.  My last trip to Paris, which is sadly long ago, my sister and I waited in a long line out the door on avenue des Champs Elysées for a box of the melt in your mouth macarons.  Indeed, they were so tasty, the entire box was finished within 2 blocks, which meant we had to travel back another day to purchase ANOTHER box to actual fly home to family ( such hardship!)

Though I am up for Paris any day, I will settle for tea on Madison Avenue for now.

Bon appetit!

Two Design

The lovely hand made garments from Two New York are already featured on Swell’s homepage.  Monica sews these incredible, effortless, unique caftans, tunics and tops out of Indian sari’s.  Each style has a different drape, always creating a flattering, easy silhouette.

The people over at The Makers Project just did a piece on Two that I want to share with you.  Check out the whole interview here:















Yusuke Suzuki magic


I came across these magical, Alice in wonderland images by Yusuke Suzuki while poking around on some of my favorite blogs today.  This one came from Pirouette.  My daughter would melt in joy at this oversized, bejeweled tiara!




Smarty pants keep it simple for their kids

“The heart of the Waldorf method is that education is an art – it must speak to the child’s experience. To educate the whole child, his heart and his will must be reached, as well as the mind.”  — Rudolf Steiner

A friend of mine sent me a NYTimes article, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute, about Waldorf education, the anti-computer technology pro-hands on creative learning approach and it’s popularity with a very unsuspecting group: Silicon Valley.

Regardless of the Silicon Valley twist, the basics of this article talk about the simple sensory experience of a Waldorf student – being taught a subject from all sides so that they really have a positive experience and make it their own.

I have to admit, though my daughter is happy at a local school a few blocks down from Swell, I am drinking the Waldorf cool-aid.   Are you?