It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like…Cold Season

“Listen, I’m sniffling, and I’m not really awake, and I’m taking echinacea and Vitamin C and sleeping practically 24 hours a day. I have a temperature! And uh, um, I think I’m contagious. So I would, I would really appreciate it if you would just go away.”—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

 

How is the cold weather treating all of you out there? We just had our first snowfall here in Virginia. I’m from New England, so my reaction to snow is a little less, “The sky is falling!” and a little more “Bring it on, snow gods! Give me a Nor Easter to plow my car through!” I’m a fair driver in the snow, but when push comes to shove, I’d rather be at home, wearing cozy sweats and curled up with a good book. Ice is another thing entirely. No one likes ice. Black ice, wintery mixes, sleet, melted snow that refroze into sheets of opaque slides of death—not a fan of that.

Another accompaniment to cold weather is germs. Everyone stays indoors longer during the colder seasons, and germs tend to like to gather and procreate and spread their delightful selves all around in such an environment. I just got over a cold myself, and I was interested to find that the homeopathic remedies I tried worked significantly better than the over-the-counter drugs I bought.

20171212_164604

I’ve almost completely stopped taking any kind of pain reliever or symptom alleviator. I’ve always been super-sensitive to most of them—give me one Benadryl and I’m out like a light! I took one Vicodin after having a tooth pulled several years ago, and I thought I was going to turn inside out. I also read recently that ibuprofen can have harmful effects on the cardiovascular system. I don’t know about you, but I love my heart, and I intend to take good care of it and the rest of my body for a very long time. It’s all natural for me from this day forward. I prefer to grow my pharmaceuticals. There are some things that humankind simply cannot duplicate in a lab. Science has a long way to go in that regard.

I will say this first and foremost: sleep—getting an ample amount of rem sleep—is paramount to a healthy immune system, and good health overall. Think about it. I know I usually get sick after a combination of high stress over a length of time and not getting enough sleep. Going to bed at a decent time and getting at least 8 hours helps improve one’s health overall, from strengthening memory to giving you a longer lifespan.

Whenever I get a cold, it always starts in my nose and throat and travels to my upper respiratory system through post nasal drip—ugh, disgusting. Phlegm is obnoxious. I like being able to breathe, as do most of us, so being clogged up is just a complete and utter nuisance. And I loathe having to take that putrid, nasty, gag-worthy cough syrup that makes me dizzy and groggy and only lasts for four hours. What use is that? I already feel miserable, so why make myself feel worse?

This time, I tried something different. Every night before I went to bed, I drank one to two mugs of tea with lemon and honey and brandy—my version of a hot toddy. I used a decaf chai since it contains all the powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories like cinnamon and cloves and cardamom—anything to bring down the swelling in my sinuses. Honey is a natural antibiotic, and lemon is a natural antiseptic. All of that combined with hot water and a little alcohol alleviated most of the symptoms, including bringing my slightly elevated temperature back down to normal. And best of all—I slept like a baby.

I also found a recipe for cough syrup in an edition of Mother Earth News. It combines honey, hot water, and fresh thyme. It works, it doesn’t make me groggy, and it tastes a hell of a lot better than the store-bought junk.

I’m also trying their recipe for skin cleanser. This is my first day trying it, so stay tuned if you want to know if it really does work. I can already see a difference, but I live with my face every day, so what I see not everyone else will. It was a little astringent, and I’m thinking of adding aloe vera to it as a moisturizer. Other than that, I am happy with the result so far.

I do like being able to pronounce the ingredients that go into making these products: thyme, water, honey, soap. Yes, the skin cleanser contains honey, which sounds weird. But think on this: archeologists discovered pots of honey in some of the tombs in the pyramids—it was still edible, even after 3,000 years! 3,000 years! I don’t know who was chosen to test its edibility, but apparently, it was still good. Honey is an amazing natural preservative, and it was used for many things in ancient Egypt including embalming. And if it was good enough to be offered as a gift to the Egyptian gods, then it’s good enough to go on my face.

Another great alleviator of chest congestion for me is coffee. Did you know that if someone is having an asthma attack, and their inhaler is missing, having them chew on coffee grounds can help open their airways? The caffeine in black coffee helps stimulate the bronchial tubes to expand. This should be used in emergency situations only. I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I know for me it certainly helped keep my airways clear and working productively while I was sick. And again, coffee tastes much better than cough syrup. Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day can also lower one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease.

I know so many people who will go straight to the doctor’s office for a prescription the moment they know they’re ill. I know people who take so many pills and supplements it makes my own head spin! I couldn’t justify it for myself. Given the research I have done independently on herbs, fruits, vegetables, proteins and holistic healing, I feel very strongly in choosing a more natural approach to sustain my life. I will keep my money in my pocket, listen to my body and what it needs, and use my knowledge of herbs and other foods to counteract the illnesses that seek to wreak havoc on my head and chest.

 

Sites I used:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/honey-in-the-pyramids.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0010864/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fda-strengthens-warning-that-nsaids-increase-heart-attack-and-stroke-risk-201507138138

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202.php

 

 

 

Advertisements

Marshmallow

I am in New York visiting my mom for a few days. Today, I was helping her with some yard work while she mowed the lawn, and I came across a plant I recognized: marshmallow!

No, the plant does not even remotely resemble the sugary confection that no campfire should be without. Marshmallow is a plant that has been used for ages medicinally in either poultices for cuts and burns, or as a throat soother when someone has a couch or a core throat due to cold or seasonal allergies. Marshmallow leaves look like fans. I have never seen the flowers, but they are either purple or white. You can use the whole plant. You can eat the leaves like salad greens or dry them (which is what I opted for), and you can either extract the sap from the tuberous root or dry it in order to preserve it longer (also what I opted to do).

The sweet marshmallows of modern times were originally invented as throat lozenges for sore throats. The sap from the root can be blended into a thick paste-like substance and honey and other flavors added to it to make a hard candy to suck on. People still make them–although, I don’t know how I feel about adding slippery elm bark to anything. Just the name sounds unappealing.

I chose to dry both the leaves and the roots, for preservation sake. I will be returning to Virginia in a few days, and I want to take it all with me without risk of it spoiling. I will probably leave some for my mom to use as well.

Common mallow looks very similar to marshmallow and can be used in the same fashion. It’s a bit smaller, but it can be found anywhere along rivers, near ponds and lakes–anywhere the ground is constantly damp. Look for a leaf that looks similar to an open fan. The roots are long, slender and pale. They smell to me almost like celery.

I hung the leaves to dry in a place with plenty of circulation, and the roots, which I cut into pieces about one inch long, were dried in the oven for about an hour on very low heat.

20171013_114619

The thicker pieces are still a little spongy to the touch, but I will just let them dry completely in the open air on the counter. Once the leaves are completely dried, I will crumble them and use them in tea. I will have to look up a good recipe for marshmallow root salve. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to share!

I am so proud of myself for recognizing such a useful plant! I can’t wait to do more foraging! Goldenrod is past its peak here, but I hope there is still some blooming when I return to Virginia. That is another very useful plant to have for cold and flu season.

Until next time!

Backyard Pharmacy

Hello All! Long time! I wish I had a good excuse, but I don’t. I will say that writer’s block combined with procrastination is never a good mix. But all that aside, who is excited about viewing the solar eclipse in the northern hemisphere today? I certainly am! I have my pinhole camera all set and ready to go! The last time I remember there was a solar eclipse, I was in kindergarten, and I didn’t get to see it. Bummer. But as long as the clouds stay out of the way, we will be good to go! Remember, DO NOT look directly at the sun, unless you want to go partially or even permanently blind.

I have been recovering from a summer cold–ick. I don’t get sick very often, or for very long, but being any kind of sick makes me feel miserable. Colds always like to settle in my chest and sinuses, and so decongestant and expectorants are my go-to. I go with the cheaper version of Robitussin, and that sees to the expulsion of mucus (ick) from my lungs.

During this last bout, however, I supplemented my medicine with some yarrow tea brewed from my fresh fern growing on my deck. I added dried lemon balm and spearmint to the tea as well. It was amazing how well it worked to alleviate the symptoms of my cold! Not only did it soothe my sore throat, but it also helped me breathe a little easier.

There are plenty of herbs that assist in boosting your immune system response when you’re sick. Dandelions–yes, those pesky, fuzzy yellow flowers sprouting up all over your yard–are used to treat everything from gas and indigestion to the common cold, to warding off cancer. The whole plant, from root to stem to flower, can be used either topically or ingested. Plantains–not the cousin of bananas, but the green weeds that are also growing in your yard–can be used to stop bleeding from minor cuts, can be used in salves and poultices, or brewed in tea and eaten in salads. Plantain has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

One herb that I have not managed to try yet is marshmallow–not to be confused with the puffy, sugary, s’mores-building confection sporting summer campfires. Marshmallow plants can be found in damp areas such as near marshes (hence the name) and along river banks. Common mallow is within the same family. The confectioner’s version of the marshmallow got its start medicinally. The sap from the root of the plant can be whipped until it’s stiff, and sugar and other ingredients added to it, making it a lozenge of sorts for sore throats. The leaves and stems of the plant can be eaten as well.

Nature’s abundance is truly unlimited. Plants that we take absolutely for granted are the ones we ought to pay more attention to. I know I am gaining a much higher respect for what are known as common weeds, and learning to put them to their proper uses.

That’s all that I have for you today. I hope you all enjoy your day! Until next time!

 

“Little Miss Muffett” Makes Curds and Whey!

How’s it going out there? I hope no one has a case of the Mondays. My Monday is tomorrow. Yaaayyy. One thing that gets weird about working retail or in a non-typical 9-5 job is that days off tend to change from week to week, and are not always consecutive. Actually, if you do get two days off in a row, celebrate!

Anyway, today I decided to make cheese! No whey! That was a pun by the way. I decided to do this with milk that had just expired in my fridge, and I didn’t want to just pour it down the drain. I don’t like wasting things, and I always feel especially bad about spoiled milk. I always buy milk for a recipe and try to make an effort to use the rest of it somehow–and end up keeping it for far too long. I don’t put milk in my coffee…bleh. I like my coffee hot, strong, and straight up. No sugar either. Just pure brain juice.

The two by-products of cheesemaking are curds and whey. The curds are the milk solids that will be turned into cheese. This is where the lactose resides.

Whey protein is very healthy. It is considered a complete protein, as it contains all nine amino acids–don’t make me recite them all. Whey protein is used in exercise drinks and smoothies. Some people use it as an alternative to milk if they are lactose intolerant, and it can also be used as a dietary supplement.

A quick Google search for whey protein will bring up sites that sell huge jars of this dehydrated, synthesized powder for $30 or more (plus shipping and handling)! What?! Why buy it when you can make it at home for whey cheaper! (See what I did there? Puns are fun!) The organic whole milk I had bought was $3.99. A large jug of white vinegar is $2.99. It takes nothing to store the liquid form in your fridge. It will last for months!

So here is what you need:

1 Gallon Milk–any milk, but whole milk will give you more flavor

1/2 Cup White Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, or Lemon Juice

1 T Salt

1 T Chopped Herbs of your choice–optional

Cheesecloth

Something Heavy to weigh the cheese down

  1. If you are going to be saving the whey protein, place a large bowl in the sink. Set a strainer or colander over the bowl, and drape the cheesecloth over the strainer.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the milk over medium heat. Stir the milk often to keep it from burning or scalding, until it starts to boil.
  3. Take the pot off of the heat. Add the vinegar or lemon juice. The curds and whey will separate almost immediately.
  4. Pour the curds and whey into the strainer with the cheesecloth.
  5. The curds will be hot, so be careful. Carefully, squeeze out most of the remaining liquid from the cheese. Add in your salt and chopped herbs and stir around using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon.
  6. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth, twist them together, and knot them. Place your “something heavy” on top of the ball of cheese to weigh it down as it cools. Leave the cheese like this for about an hour to an hour and a half.
  7. Unwrap the cheese from the cheesecloth. The cheese will still have a crumbly texture, but it’s yummy! Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

So that is a basic cheese recipe. There are other more elaborate recipes and methods out there, but this is great for beginners, or for those looking to save money rather than throwing old food out. And as I said before, it’s so much more economical to make whey protein yourself rather than buying a pricey commercialized product.

Also, a shout out to Colleen, writer of the blog Lean Cuisine! I used her recipe Spanish Chicken and Potato Roast today, and it came out amazing! I added rosemary to the potatoes, but other than that, it was entirely hers. Great job! Here is the link to her post:  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/48447071/posts/1506553659

20170710_150239

Inspiration comes from everywhere! Enjoy, everyone! Until next time!

 

 

With a Grain of Salt

Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or a health food specialist. This is strictly opinion.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine at work before I began my shift. She mentioned seeing a rerun of a Frontline documentary on PBS about dietary supplements, and how some are coming under scrutiny by the FDA and other parties due to having customer complaints about deteriorating health after taking these supplements.

I told my friend that there is a lot to be cautious about before taking any kind of capsule, whether it’s purely for health enhancement, or requested by a medical specialist. I am not a doctor, nor a food health specialist, but I like to be well informed about what I put into my body, and whether it truly helps versus hinders my personal well-being.

Here is what I know:

Before the vitamins and supplements are put on the market, the FDA does NO testing of the product to make sure it’s safe. It’s only after the fact if a problem arises, that testing may happen, and that depends upon how many consumers complain and seek medical and legal action. Manufacturers of these vitamins have to stick to good manufacturing practices, but as far as the content of the capsules goes, that is all up to the integrity of the people producing them. So those fish oil vitamins or those B12 capsules do contain those ingredients–but what else?

I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. As part of the curriculum, we have a Nutrition 101 class, along with Food Safety. It’s what any aspiring chef ought to know–what you’re cooking, good cooking and ordering practices, and what benefits these foods provide for your body’s function. For at least a week after that class, everyone was eating more fiber and vegetables–until beer and pizza reclaimed their rightful places in the dorms.

My other wealth of knowledge comes from somewhere a little closer to home–my mother. My mother had ambitions as a younger woman to be a medical professional. While her intentions changed and altered after becoming a mom (hello, world), the information I grew up learning and understanding about food has become an intrinsic part of my life. My mom is one of the healthiest people I know–mind, body, and spirit–and life has thrown her quite a few curveballs.

Because of my upbringing, and other influences that have come through my life, I made a promise to myself once I moved away from home–I make most of my meals from scratch from ingredients whose names I can pronounce–chicken, beef, pork, fish, rice, beans, olive oil, pasta, spinach, garlic, potatoes, asparagus, yogurt, eggs, flour, sugar. It’s not always easy cooking with the schedule I have, but I make time every week to make food–preferably something that can last a few days in the fridge. It’s good for the budget, too. Eating out can get expensive.

I don’t take any prescriptions or supplements. I drink teas, coffee, wine and beer (both, in moderation, have excellent health benefits). The closest I get to taking drugs is cold medicine if I have a cold, Ibuprofen if I have an ache, and allergy medicine if my nose decides to get itchy from pollen falling from trees. To date, I enjoy perfect health with some minor colds or allergy issues once in a while. My immune system is healthy and my body is in good shape.

Back to the conversation with my friend at work. My co-worker is from Japan, where soy is widely used for quite a lot of things. Soy has become all the rage here in the States in the last ten years or so for its ever-growing list of health benefits. I have family that uses soy products as an alternative milk and other foods. Sadly though, there is research emerging about some not-so-great health problems that may arise with a high consumption of soy products. It has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and may increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

I don’t believe that soy is inherently bad for you. I believe that eating in moderation and having a balanced diet is really the endgame. Soy can be consumed in smaller proportions which will help you reap all the good benefits. It seems to me (after reading some of the research) that it’s the people who eat tofu and other soy products with a high regularity that may have a problem. Eating some edamame at a sushi restaurant is not going to cause an issue.

I like growing my pharmaceuticals in the pots on my deck and fueling my body with the vitamins, protein, calories (yes, we do need some of those to function), and antioxidants through the food I cook and eat. Mediterranean style foods that are rich in plant-based items (salad, leafy greens, vegetables, etc) and paired with a protein are best. And don’t forget the “E” word–exercise.

So yes, I say pasta to all you gluten nay-sayers (except for those suffering from Celiac, or a true wheat allergy)! Pasta, rice, beans (beans are excellent for cleaning out your digestion), olives, olive oil, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, fish. Throw some parsley on top of your pasta! Parsley has antioxidants, is a diuretic, and antirheumatic. Basil is another antioxidant, an antidepressant, and a carminative–relieves gas and bloating. If you want the benefits of fish oil, cook some fish. Fish also have iodine, which is necessary for a healthy thyroid. Olive oil promotes healthy cardiovascular function and can help to reduce inflammation. And these all taste WAY better than those capsules!

Going natural seems to be a much better alternative to man-made. After all, why try to duplicate something that had already been perfected over thousands, millions, billions of years?

So that’s my shtick for this post. I hope this is helpful to anyone seeking a healthy lifestyle. My intention for all of you is to live the lives you truly desire, unencumbered by health issues. Here are some sites that I found helpful, and I hope they will be helpful for you too!

Until next time!

More Plants, and Food!

Hi, everyone! A quick shout out to all my new followers! Thanks for reading, and thanks for deciding to follow me! I am honored!

I have added a few new plants to my collection. I was killing time yesterday at a nursery before joining my friends somewhere, and I bought peppermint, yellow yarrow, and rosemary. I am super excited! Yarrow is supposed to be very good for you and has the capability of healing cuts and sores. I took a couple small samples from the plant that I bought, and I’m drying them so I can add the cuttings to oil for another essential oil. I’m drying some more spearmint as well, and I will store that in an airtight container once it’s completely dry.

20170615_14133020170615_141344

Health is a major reason why I am doing what I’m doing. I am actually in amazing health (aside from the cold I just finished getting over), and I intend to remain healthy throughout my life. My family has a history of heart issues, diabetes, and colon cancer. No thanks, I say to that! When I die, it won’t be because of any of these problems.

My mom has always been a major advocate for healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle. The other day, we were talking about how we both discovered that a more alkaline blood pH is less likely to become cancerous.

What is pH you ask? It’s a scale which determines how alkaline or acidic something is. The scale goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything with a pH higher than 7 is acidic. Anything with a pH lower than 7 is alkaline. Examples of food with high acid would be carbonated water, wine, chocolate, and vinegar. Examples of food with more alkalinity would be broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach.

According to what both my mom and I were reading, carboniferous vegetables like spinach and cauliflower will help your system maintain a healthy blood pH. Blood that is too acidic can cause many problems. Her explanation of Diabetic Ketoacidosis was more than a little disturbing. This is where the blood has become so acidic due to having too many ketones in the blood (which are released to counteract too much glucose in the blood) that the blood literally boils. Yuck! No thanks! I will eat the leafy greens to keep that from happening. Cancer can take a hike too.

So my mom shared a fantastic recipe with me for broccoli rabe. I have never cooked broccoli rabe before, but I’m always game for experimenting with food. So here is what it is:

1-2 Pounds chicken thighs

1 bunch broccoli rabe

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 package rice and red beans (I used Zataran’s)

1 bell pepper, chopped

Olive Oil (use the one specifically for sauteeing, it will say so on the bottle)

Salt (I used Kosher salt, but it’s up to you)

Pepper

For Marinade:

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 Teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a resealable bag, add chicken and all marinade ingredients. Seal the bag and mix everything around until the chicken is well coated. Allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to the package directions. Add bell pepper to the rice 5-8 minutes before it is finished cooking. Pour rice mixture into a rectangular pan to cool. Set aside.
  3. Prepare an ice bath for the broccoli rabe (this stops the cooking process). Add salt to the ice bath (salt lowers the temperature of the ice).
  4. Cut one inch off the bottom of the broccoli rabe. Divide the rabe into 2 portions. Set a large pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Pour in a generous amount of olive oil (the broccoli rabe absorbs a lot of it, so don’t be shy). Once it’s hot, add garlic to the oil.
  5. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot. Add salt. Use tongs to stir it around. Add more oil if needed. Cover and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, put the broccoli rabe into the ice bath. Once cooled, transfer it out to either a colander or a plate with a paper towel to dry.
  7. Replenish ice and salt in the ice bath and repeat steps 4-6 with the second batch.
  8. Using the same pot, add the marinated chicken thighs two at a time. Cook for about 7 minutes on each side, or until the meat is white all the way through and the outside is browned. Let the meat rest on a plate for 10 minutes.
  9. Place broccoli rabe over top of the rice. Add chicken over the top of the broccoli rabe. Pour remaining pan juices from the pot over the top of everything. Serve warm.

It’s so good! Adding more olive oil takes out some of the bitterness from the broccoli rabe, and it is absolutely delicious! Come one, don’t tell me you don’t want to try this!

20170615_122635 That’s all that I have for you today! Enjoy the rest of your day, stay cool! Until next time!