"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Monday, October 31, 2011

We have a winner!

These glass straws are from www.glassstraws.com and-

JP Barnham is the winner! Drawn fair and square by John Paul.

Send me an email with your address and I'll send them out asap!

Thanks to everyone for your comments. I'm already working on the next giveaway, so stay tuned for that.

Hope you all have a BOO-tiful day!

"In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet."
~Albert Schweitzer

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Baby Step #6: Read Yourself Healthy

I find that anything I'm interested in gets old. Eventually. Nutrition and cooking not excepted.

So I like to find ways to stay motivated in the areas of my life that I don't want to fizzle.

I've read The Secret of the Rosary about 10 times, because it keeps refreshing me. Same with my old house-keeping standby, Sink Reflections.

In the kitchen, I've found lots of interesting books that I use and pass on to friends. The Wonderful World Within You is one I keep around. I like it because it is full of graphs of the nutritional density of foods. The visual difference between pizza and peanut-butter-and-jelly-on whole-wheat is pretty cool, and looking at the charts is helpful to keep me on track, nutritionally speaking. This book also made me fall in love with mushrooms; they are the most dense food, nutrition-for-calorie. You also get to see which vitamins and minerals are highest in what foods, which I find very helpful.

Recently, I came across a dumb-sounding book and started reading it out of curiosity. The Thin Commandments : The Ten No-Fail Strategies for Permanent Weight Loss. I don't really need to lose weight, but I'm sometimes asked what diet I think is the best, and I never have an answer. "Just eat real food and you'll get full before you get fat," isn't really that helpful, is it now?

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. The 10 Commandments are actually not about what to eat and what not to eat to lose weight. The book is all about strategy, structuring your environment, and re-learning how to think about food. Now, the goal of the book is weightloss, but ANYONE who has food allergies or who wants better nutrition can benefit from this book.

One of his good points: no one gets fat (or ruins their immune system) from Christmas dinner.

No. You get fat (or sick) from the 2 weeks before Christmas and the 3 weeks after Christmas. The junk snacking, the leftovers you can't stop picking at, the endless parties. We stretch out the feast so much that there are no fasts in between!

We KNOW what to do to be thin (or be healthy). But we don't do it. Even when we want to.

One cookie isn't going to make you fat (or ruin your health). But so many of us eat the cookie. Then 5 more. Then tomorrow we eat the rest of the batch. Then we decide to make some more 2 days later.

Cravings. You can't reason with cravings!

But this book is full of strategies to help you deal with foods you are addicted to, are allergic to, foods you love, foods you hate, and emotional eating. I've intuitively developed my own strategies to deal with junk food cravings, and many of them are in this book!

My personal weakness is vacation. It's very hard and very expensive to eat healthy when I'm not in my kitchen. And if I only went on one vacation for a few days every year it wouldn't be a big deal. But my last vacation was 2 weeks, my next one will be 2 weeks. That's a lot of meals and snacks to deal with! So I'm taking notes furiously and trying to make a smart plan for our trip to Kansas for Thanksgiving.

My main beef with this book is that the author makes no distinction between whole foods and chemical food. At the end of the book, he suggests a lot of 'lite' foods riddled with artificial sweeteners and additives. I think some of them might be ok as occasional indulgenges, but I hope no one would eat them regularly! Especially when trying to restrict your food intake, 97% of your food needs to pack a lot of nutritional punch in every bite.

In any case, I'm glas I finally have a book I can refer readers and friends to when they ask about weightloss and dealiong with cravings.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you're the easiest person to fool."
~Richard Feynman

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baby Step #5: Choose Your Poison Wisely

Honey, raw honey, Really Raw Honey, agave nectar, maple syrup grade A, maple syrup grade B, Yacon syrup, xylitol, stevia, evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, natural beet sugar, coconut sugar, organic pure cane sugar, demarara, rapadura, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, organic corn syrup, old-fashioned molasses, black-strap molasses:

Ummmmmm- where am I?

If you guessed the "sweetener" aisle at any given health food store, you've got it!

Confusing. To put it mildly, eh?

Now, let me say it: I'm biased. Yup, me. Biased. Not shocking, I know, as I do enjoy shoving things down people's throats (more than I usually allow myself to do). But hey, the great thing about a blog is you can just click 'x' if it makes you mad.

But I hope no one will get mad over a little bit of sugar, and for the record, I hope I'm not shoving anything down your throat. Although if you were here, I'd shove a whole wheat cinammon roll down your throat because I just made some- and MAN are they good.

But I digress.

Sugars. They all have one thing in common, on every diet, ever- they are NOT free foods. Carrots and celery= free foods. Sugars? No.

Sugar makes you fat.

Sugar messes with your mood.

Sugar is delicious.

That's the crux of the matter, right?

The question is, when you are going to indulge, how are you going to do it?

I'm not going to go into WHY I think you should ditch the white sugar, even the organic stuff. It's a highly refined, often genetically modified, chemicalized food which you can read about a zillion places. (Try Sugar Blues or Suicide By Sugar.)

I have a bias towards the more natural sweeteners: raw honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and stevia. Barley malt is a good choice, but I'm going to leave it out because it is outside my area of expertise. I'd love comments from someone who cooks regularly with barley malt!

Honey is great because the good stuff is raw. Unfortunately, once honey is cooked, it's main benefit- enzymes- are destroyed, and as such, I try to only drizzle honey on top of things, or add it to teas that have cooled. The main thing to look for in honey is raw and unfiltered. (Raw honey shouldn't be fed to babies under 12 months old.) It does make a great, safe cough suppressant. Even real doctors grudgingly admit this.

Maple syrup is definitely a whole food. Just tree sap, cooked down. Formaldehyde is NO LONGER USED to produce Grade A maple syrup. But Grade B is still much yummier. This was the 'cheap sweet' of America before white sugar production became a chemical, cheap, industrial process (read Farmer Boy- mmmm). Back before America got fat, we ate maple sugar. (Maple sugar is crystalized/ evaporated maple syrup.)

Agave is pretty new to the American health scene. It is produced just the same way maple syrup is, but is much cheaper. I will say that RAW agave nectar is sorta a fuzzy thing, because it is made by fermenting agave juice with mold spores, and the process is proprietary (i.e. they don't have to tell us jack about how it's really made). I'm not big into mold spores. And raw agave gives me a splitting headache, while regular agave does not. Regular agave nectar/ syrup is my sweetener of choice for special occasion baked goods.

Brown rice syrup is made by cooking brown rice with enzymes. It is a traditional food in Asian countries. But it's not very tasty. My kids love it on toast, but I keep it on hand for sweet emergency use only. It is good for baking, since it is already cooked, but produces a dense texture.

And now, my baby, my favorite, my sweetener of choice:

Stevia leaves are green and they come off a plant. They are like a bazillion times sweeter than sugar. They are amazingly good added to loose-leaf tea or to ground coffe, right in the filter. They can be dried and powdered and added directly to foods. BUT stevia doesn not contribute bulk or texture to foods which makes it quite tricky to bake with.

Stevia extract can be obtained by a chemical or a natural process. That white powder stuff is not a whole food. It is a purified, isolated element from the stevia plant. It is sold as 'stevia extract', and in brands like TruVia and Rebiana, it may be called Rebaudioside A. Whole food extracts are available, too, and are my sweetener of choice. A natural stevia extract is liquid, either with grain alcohol as the extractive, or else water and vegetable glycerine.

These are produced by soaking the leaves in the liquid medium- a tincture! Yep! And you know how to make tinctures now, right?

Unlike honey, agave, or any other sweetener (including most artificial sweeteners), stevia has been proven to have a negligible effect on blood sugar. Also, unlike other natural sweeteners, it is calorie-free. Add all you want to your tea or coffee or quick bread, but beware! Too much stevia gets very, very bitter. I think many people who don't like stevia simply tried too much and found it bitter.

So remember, this Baby Step means don't indulge too often, and when you sweet, sweet responsibly!

Tomorrow: Baby Step #6: Read Yourself Healthy

"In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest."
~Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby Step #4: DON'T BUY ME EITHER!!!

Artificial sweeteners.


Worse than sugar hardly seems possible, but it is. Worse than HFCS? No one's sure. But they're on, about, equal footing.

I'm not a big fan of coffee drinking, but every time I see a soda pop in someone's hand, I just want to beg- please, please have a cup of coffee! All the caffeine, none of the man-made chemicals.

Now, as I repeatedly say, I am not a healthcare professional, a chemist, a nutritionist, or an herbalist. And I encourage everyone to do their own reading up on subjects that interest- or incense- them.

But let's face it- if diet pop, diet cookies, and artificially sweetened ice cream really worked, we'd be a skinny nation.


The bottom line is that NO artificial sweetener is a whole food. Period. And if Mother Nature didn't invent it, it doesn't belong in a "natural kitchen."

Unfortunately, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and some new, seductive combos of these hide in lots of places. Accidentally grab the wrong bag of no-sugar-added frozen fruit, and it's drenched in the stuff. No-sugar-added jam? You thought that was good, right? But if you don't read labels, you're bringing home gram upon gram of Splenda. Ditto fruit juice, popsicles, sunflower seeds, and even bread. Ya, because those 3 teaspoons of honey in that loaf of 100% whole wheat bread are what's making America fat.


What about my little darling, stevia extract? Hmmmmm? How can that be a whole food?

Well, because you can make it in your own kitchen. From real foods.

But not all stevia extracts, or even honeys and maple syrups and agave nectars, are created equal.

And that's what we're talking about tomorrow in-
Baby Step #5: Choose Your Poison

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
~Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Hey, remember these?
For new readers- these are glass straws from www.glassstraws.com!

Well, they are taking up space in my cupboard. And it doesn't look like I'll be reaching 50 followers till 2012- LOL- so I'm going to give these away on Monday! A guiltless Halloween treat.

You have till then to become a follower and leave a comment. Every comment is an entry!

"If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree."
~Jim Rohn

Baby Step #3: DON'T BUY ME!!!

OK, I'm not a doctor, a chemist, or a nutritionist. But it's finally common knowledge: high-fructose corn syrup IS BAD FOR YOU. Sure it comes from corn. (So does the ethanol that you put in your gas tank.) But the process it passes through turns it into a chemical.

In a nutshell, in laymen's terms, as I understand it: Your body doesn't biologically, physiologically recognize HFCS as a food, though it tastes sweet and contains calories. So unlike that slightly lesser evil, common table sugar or sucrose, HFCS doesn't trigger your brain's satiation response. One of the MANY reasons a person can drink three soda pops in an hour, but could never down 47 teaspoons of sugar in an hour!

So, in short, this baby step to a healthier family invovles throwing out any box, jar, or bag in your home that lists HFCS, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, or anything similar. When in doubt, google. You can find good lists of how this chemical is creatively named to hide in your food.

Even many health-food store foods contain HFCS. Notorious for HFCS:

-Jelly, jam, preserves and the like. Look for one made with only fruit juice concentrate as the sweetener. Or make my Rose-Hip Jam!

-Yogurt, especially the single-serve cups. Most folks don't binge on entire cartons of yogurt, so why pay extra for the portion-controlled cups? Buy a nice, big plain organic tub of it. (I noticed recently that at our grocery store, you can get organic for about the same price as regular now!) Add your own fruit, vanilla, honey, or whatever.

-Cereal bars, granola bars, and other pre-packaged junk. The problem with these snacks, in addition to the possibility of tons of HFCS in the cheaper brands, is that they take the place of the healthier snacks you and your kids should be eating when you're hungry throughout the day.

By simply saying "no" to HFCS, you'll save a lot of money and a lot of health. You'll make losing weight and keeping it off easier. And you'll be forced to expand your diet to fill in the gaps.

A winning strategy all around!

Baby Step #4: DON'T BUY ME EITHER!!!

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it."
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939, translated from French by Lewis Galantière

Monday, October 24, 2011

Baby Step #2: Breakfast

Breakfast. The mother of all meals.

A healthy breakfast, as a habit, is one of the best gifts to give your little people while they're young.

To start- chuck the ceral boxes. Please. Unless you're eating Uncle Sam- and you're probably not, cuz let's face it, Uncle Sam tastes like cardboard- then your cereal isn't really worthy to break your fast.

Granola might be ok, if you've made it yourself, but the store-bought stuff, including the health food store stuff, is so sugary you might as well eat a Snickers. Seriously.

And if 'Eggo' lives in your freezer, you'll have to kick him out, too.

The truth hurts.

While oatmeal is the easiest, cheapest healthy breakfast- especially when dressed up- all oats are not created equal. Instant oats are not your friend. And old-fashioned cook just as quickly. Really they do! If you like the texture of instant, try steel-cut oats cooked overnight in the crockpot.

Try applesauce, fruit-spread, grounf flax, almond or coconut milk, chopped nuts, cinnamon, carob powder... but not all at once, he-he. Try an oatmeal sundae bar. That's always a hit around here!

Homemade whole-grain pancakes and waffles (skip the Log Cabin on top- try agave nectar, real maple syrup, or raw honey), egg anything, leftovers from last night, and smoothies (if you use a protein in it) also make healthy breakfasts. Most people do best on a protein with a high-fiber carb. A handful of raw almonds with the carb when I don't feel like making eggs usually works fine.

If you struggle with low-blood sugar, protein in the morning is very helpful. Personally, leftover chicken soup is my favorite breakfast. One suggestion from my favorite book- Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition- is to not consume wheat at breakfast. Find another grain, since the American diet tends to be so wheat-heavy.

Oh, and no, I don't care if you're not hungry. Skipping breakfast is the best way to build up the craving to binge later in the day. And if breakfast makes you super-hungry all day, try a different breakfast. You might need more protein or more fiber, or a healthy fat.

I'd love to hear your own favorite healthy, hearty breakfast!

Tomorrow- Baby Step #3: DON"T BUY ME!!!

"To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring." ~George Santayana

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Baby Step #1: Sandwiches

Sandwiches are not just a main-stay of American lunches. The Irish eat them. The British eat them. Even Mexicans eat tortas; though tortas are so much work, I'd just as soon cook a 5-course turkey dinner, myself.

If you are like 11 out of 10 mothers in America, you feed your kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Unless your kids have peanut allergies, and you feed them almond butter and jelly, or they have gluten allergies and you feed them pb&j on rice-bread.

The good news:

pb&j is in.

The bad news:

Oscar Meyer is out.

To start: you need a good bread. It needs to have less than 7 ingredients and you have to be able to pronounce them all. It needs to be 100% whole grain, no exceptions- wheat, rice, spelt, rye, whatever. It will doubtless cost you an extra dollar or two. Accept it. Cheap bread is not worth the bag it comes in.

Next, you obviously need something to put on your bread. Real foods are good. Chemicals, not good.

Start with your peanut butter. It needs to be made out of peanuts, and salt or not. That's it. Anything else in there? Toss it out. The same is true for almond, cashew, and sunbutter. Sunbutter is great for those with peanut issues, but you have to find one without sugar added, which isn't easy.

Next, the j.

Your jelly most definitely should not contain High-Fructose Corn Syrup. The best 'jam' is a 100% fruit spread. It should contain fruit, apple or grape juice, and pectin. Added citric or ascorbic acid is ok.

But raw honey, sliced banana or strawberry also make great pb accompaniments.

Unfortunately, cold lunch meats just don't make the grade. Sorry for the bad news. One popular brand that touts itself as 'natural' is Boar's Head. Found in Kroger stores around the country. But guess what? While slightly less horrendous for you, their meats are just as chemical-filled as the house brand.

Don't believe me? Well, ask for nitrate-free Boar's Head next time. They do make it.

It costs $15-21 per pound.

Believe me, there are better ways to spend your hard-earned dollars!

Instead, try spicing up and cooking a turkey breast or a chicken breast, cooling it in the fridge, and then slicing it as thinly as possible. You can do a week's worth at a time and you'll save a lot.

Of course tuna salad, tuna patties, fried eggs, egg salad, and leftover roast. Hummus and avocado are nutritious additions. Don't tell me you don't eat avocado because you're trying to lose weight! Your body needs 'good' fats and avocado is one of the best fats there are.

I eat 2 a day when I'm pregnant; 1 a day when I'm not. If they're on sale, of course.

This may not be earth-shattering information to most of you, but I know how it is to get in a lunch rut. It's really not that big a deal, actually, as long as the rut is healthy in the first place! Have your sandwich, add some crunchy raw veggies with fruit for dessert, skip the crackers/ pretzels/ jello and Little Debbies. And then go out and play... while you stil can....

Baby Step #2: Breakfast

"It's so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to."
~Annie Gottlier

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eat Better, Feel Better: 10 baby steps

I was going to work up a post on natural toys, with the holidays fast approaching. But then, let's face it. What your little people are putting in their mouths is WAY more important than what they're playing with. Even if they chew on their toys.

Food builds health and destroys it. In children, food can promote good behaviors and sunny dispositions or it can sabotage them. Really, it does so for us big people, too, when we care to admit it.

I realize that many people aren't willing to make wholesale changes in the way they eat. Food is social, psychological, and just weird, in our heads. We know what we ought to do, but we don't do it.

But there are so many little things, tiny things, we can do to shift the scales for our families in the direction of healthy and away from obesity-cancer-and-everything-else.

Healthy habits don't make us invincible, but they do make us better.

Baby Step #1: Sandwiches

"Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures."
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Life's Little Instruction Book

Friday, October 21, 2011

A bit too much nature for me, thanks

Front porch, 10 am. Thought it was dead. It wasn't.

"If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive."
~American Quaker Saying

Well, fie on me, but I killed that spider dead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Natural Narration

I am not a purist in nutrition or education. I often associate myself with the Charlotte Mason method of education, but in reality, I find that in my home, the particulars work out… differently.

Narration is the backbone of a Charlotte Mason education, along with Living Books. Living Books are pretty easily defined as well-written, engaging books, written by a single author, which impart information by telling a story. A good story! And of course, Charlotte was very strict on the avoidance of what she called twaddle . In other words, there’s a reason why you feel like screaming when your kid wants “Dora’s Favorite Colors” for the umpteenth time. Living Books are books you don’t mind reading a hundred times.

Narration is a child’s retelling of the stories he hears; in a micro-nutshell, I should say, for most CM educators can lecture for hours on end about narration, how to do it, how it ought to be done, and so on.

Charlotte Mason herself insisted that children should retell (narrate) their lessons after a single hearing, and only a single hearing. To develop, she said, the Habit of Attention. And that works for many families. But for some children, it just doesn’t. Some children feel too pressured to narrate after a single hearing, even when it’s been the house routine for years they still squirm at it, and some are so recalcitrant as to snap in their teachers’ faces- you just heard the story- you retell it! (Not that that has ever happened to me….) At which point of course, she ought to, in good humor.

I am in favor of what I call “Natural Narration.” To me, Natural Narration serves many purposes. But first, briefly, I define Natural Narration as spontaneous retelling of information and stories that a child has found interesting. Narration is supposed to follow after a child has digested the information and story from his lesson. But for some children, that digestion takes a while. Which is why you might find your child telling, in detail, about an apparently insignificant thing that happened last week, or even last year. Or you might have a child ask for a book you read her many months ago, which you had forgotten, but which she must suddenly have again for bedtime tonight. (And of course it was from the library, so she has to wait, impatiently, till tomorrow, if she hasn’t forgotten by then.)

In addition to showing me how well my child has understood a story or body of information, it also tells me what my child is actually interested in. Generally, things they tell me or their father or a friend or grandparent about of their own volition are things that they found deeply interesting and satisfying, not just things I wanted them to know because, darn it, 2nd graders ought to know it.

In CM education, that single telling of a lesson is very important. And while I understand what the aim is, I find that single telling is not natural for us. Instead, I find that the more my children are interested and engrossed in a story or experiment or what have you, the more repetition they want. An important concept in Montessori education is repetition-for-mastery. So a child wanting the same story 50 times over in a day is really taking the story in, processing it, and making sense of it.

And that is what seems more natural to me, in my home, for my children, though again, a “REAL” Montessorian would probably be just as horrified at my methodology as a “REAL” Charlotte Masonist.

Recently we all listened to The Chronicles of Narnia on tape. And then we listened again. And then we listened again. And then, guess what? We listened again.

Not because we were NOT paying attention, but because we were paying SO MUCH attention! Isaiah frequently asks for passages from the Hobbit and other favorite books to be read over and over at bedtime. We’ve read our favorite Geography-factoid book at least 20 times in the past 2 months. Many mothers will attest to the power of classics like Peter Rabbit. In fact, many mothers can still recite Peter Rabbit start to finish even after their youngest child has left for college. The single telling of a lesson is expedient for a school teacher, or homeschooling mother, who has a lot of material she wishes to cover, but I’ve finally let go of my desire to be a “REAL” Charlotte Mason-ist. We use what works, but we do what is most natural for our learning styles.

Natural Narration, repetition (I call it ‘Ritual Repetition’, actually, to myself, because it takes on the feeling of prayers repeated), and lots of Living Books make a solid, joyful core for a child’s early education.

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."
~Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Elderberry Syrup

Now, personally, I recommend sleeping at midnight. And 2 am.

But I'm busy with Christmas e-shopping, playing outside, and feeling not-too-into sitting at the computer this week, so I'm sure that's why, psychically, John Paul isn't sleeping.

He just really wants our herbal medicine cabinet filled up before the cold sets in, with blog posts about it to boot.

Thanks, John.

Elderberry Syrup is fantastic for colds and coughs, and can be used liberally when one sets in. Having a teaspoon in your afternoon tea is a good preventative as well, though your syrup won't last through the cold and flu season that way!

Elderberries induce sweating, reduce fevers, and according to Rosemary Gldstar, elderberry is particularly effective as an immunity-booster when used with echinacea.

A pound of organic elderberry should cost you $10 or less and a pound will make 4 good batches of syrup, so it's quite a savings to make it yourself. Once, in a pinch, I purchased some elderberry tincture ($9 for and ounce!) and, man, was it gross! Whereas Elderberry Syrup is crazy-yum.

So we're just going to put 6c water and 2c dried elderberries in a pot.

This makes a double-strength syrup. You can use just 1c dried elderberries if you want a single-strength batch.

Now, listen closely because this is really tough: bring this to a boil, turn down, simmer for half an hour.

Mash up your berries, then strain through a fine mesh seive.

Add 2c honey (more or less to taste) {basically, 1 cup honey to 1 cup elderberry liquid} and warm only till you can mix the honey and the liquid well.
Isn't that beautiful?

Bottle, label.

Done. Stores months in the fridge, if it lasts that long.

{Editing to add: this year, 2012, I have been making this syrup with vegetable glycerine instead of honey, and adding a wee bit of vodka or brandy as a preservative and cough suppressant.  It tastes milder that way.  You can make it whichever way you like!}

"Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep."
~Fran Lebowitz

Monday, October 17, 2011

Herbal Iron Syrup

While there are many recipes for high-iron herbal preparations, this one is easy and kid-friendly. And I'm finally making it.

At 1 a.m.

With my trusty side-kick, he-who-sleeps-little.

Well, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right? Or in this case, when life hands you a toddler screaming at midnight, play with herbs.


Let me not digress.

Here we have
6 cups water with
1/2c yellow dock
1/2c alfalfa
3/4c raspberry leaf
3/4c dandelion leaf

Which we simmered till the liquid was reduced by about half. Or so. I maybe rushed it just a tad. Ahem. It was 1a.m.

We strained and added 1and1/4 c honey (1:2 honey to liquid ratio). Then, for every 2c of that syrup, we added 1/4c cherry juice concentrate. You can use whatever fruit concentrate you can find, but not frozen concentrate. The bottle will look something like this:

Bottle and label. Is it super-yum? No. Is it way better than Floradix? YES. Take 1-4 Tablespoons daily to combat low iron.


"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one."
~Leo J. Burke

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oops- I lied.

I did not make Herbal Iron Syrup yesterday, and I didn't blog it. (Logically, obviously.) Sorry. But it wasn't really a lie; it was an accident.

And I didn't make the syrup today because I spent the day in the forest with my family. And I may not make it tomorrow because I may just go back to the forest and lay on a blanket and watch the sky.
All day. And I may do that every day for the next 2 weeks because after that, I'm afraid the mountain will get very, very cold.

So we'll be making our elderberry syrup and cloved oranges and Iron Syrup and Pre-Conception Tincture (? yes, we do hope so), batches of soup of all kinds, breads, and then sugarless Christmas treats.

All while we are stuck inside for, what, say, 5 months?

OK, I need to work on my attitude, and I need to suck it up and buy some long underwear that don't bunch up, right? It's really hard to find long underwear that fit a 6-foot-tall lady.

So while I think more on that, I hope you are out enjoying the changing seasons with your little people, collecting leaves and wildflowers, reading under a tree somewhere, and not dreading the upcoming winter. (Ya, I really do not love the cold, can you tell?)

"Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze."
~Emily Dickinson

Thursday, October 13, 2011

More Ways to get your Echinacea

Well, while we wait for our immune-boosting Echinacea-Cinnamon Tincture to mature, we need to ward off a little cold. So we are going to make 2 other echinacea recipes:

Immunity Apple Cider
Cinnamon-Echinacea Syrup

I pretty much always add cinnamon to any echinacea preparation for the little people (or for me, actually) because it does a nice job of cutting the extremely grassy, bitter aftertaste of the echinacea. Of course, cinnamon is also warming and very nutritious, so it's a perfect addition to any cool-weather medicine.

Immunity Apple Cider is a great way to use up any leftover apple juice from your RoseHip Jam! First, we make a super-concentrated cinnamon-echinacea tea. I use 1/4c dry echinacea and a goodly dash of cinnamon (or about 3 cinnamon sticks) in 6 cups of water.

Bring this to a boil and simmer till the water is reduced by half, so you'll end up with about three cups.

Strain your tea and set aside 2 cups of it, put the last cup back in your pot. Add your fresh raw or store-bought organic apple juice to the pot, tasting as you go, and maybe add a pinch of stevia. I usually use about 2 cups juice to 1 cup tea plus a hefty pinch of stevia, and some vanilla extract. Mmmmmm. Heat just till warm enough to drink.

We like this with our lunch, or as a morning tea with bread-with-honey.

Cinnamon-Echinacea Syrup

Now, rinse your pot and add your 2 cups of tea concentrate, add 1 cup raw honey and gently heat only till warm enough to mix together well. Bottle and refrigerate. This syrup, if your cinnamon is strong enough, is absolutely yummy right off the spoon, or stirred into tea.

Many syrup recipes call for a 1:1 tea to honey ratio, and calls for simmering the syrup till it thickens. However, this kills all the enzymes in the honey and is unnecessary. A thinner syrup is just as effective; in fact, it's more effective with the enzymes intact.

Enjoy! Tomorrow we will be making our Herbal Iron Syrup, so do come back to visit then.

"Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter."
~Carol Bishop Hipps

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Be Still my Heart!

Santa Fe, New Mexico is getting an Azure Standard drop! That means that all my new friends, and ME of course, will now be able to order from www.azurestandard.com and magically a week later a refrigerated semi-truck will show up and hand us big boxes of organic goodness.

See those almost-empty jars? They need their Azure refill.
How I have missed my Azure Standard!

If you want to go organic on a budget, then bulk buying is the only way to go. Bulk food buying can be tricky, of course, especially if your space is limited. But once you get a system going, you won't ever want to go back.

The basic concept is to keep a "price book." Just a running list of the things you buy and their prices, at the grocery store, at the health food store, on Amazon, etc; then you compare those prices when you go to place an order at Azure Standard, so you know that buying 25 lbs. of organic long grain brown rice is smart. You might find that there are a few items your local grocery store or health food store has phenomenal prices on, but more often than not I am congratulating myself on how much money I am saving by buying X in that big 25 lb. bag.

If you live East of the Mississippi, one of your many curses will be that Azure won't deliver to you. But if yoou are West of ole Miss' then I highly encourage you to check and see if there is an Azure drop point near you. Because you know you need 25 pounds of juicing carrots for $18.00!!!

I know I do. My poor juicer is just sitting under the counter, gathering dust, sniffling over better days. Fear not, my beloved Omega. Azure will be here soon.

"Nature does require
Her time of preservation, which perforce
I her frail son amongst my brethren mortal
Must give my attendance to."
~William Shakespeare

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rose Hip Jam

The next herbal item on my list is Rose Hip Jam.

Rose Hip Jam is fascinating- a real jammy jam that is RAW, super-high in Vitamin C, and delicious. Vitamin C, of course, is important for your body in the winter when nature's bounty is less- bountiful. This jam is a great winter staple to have on hand to strengthen the immune system, especially when you don't feel like eating citrus, or you don't feel like going to the store, but you ran out of lemons and oranges 3 days ago- that sort of thing. Pound for pound, rose hips have MORE Vitamin C than citrus fruits anyway!

Yet all you do to make the stuff in pour some seedless rosehips in a jar, cover with apple juice, and walk away! Several hours later, maybe 7-10, return and find- Rose Hip Jam.

Amazing. We made our first batch today, and sure enough, it worked. The flavor is similar to strawberry, but a bit more tart. And to be perfectly honest, there is a slight tomato-ey undertone. So make a small batch- about 2/3c with a cup of juice- to taste test, then experiment with the flavor. You can add stevia powder and/ or cinnamon to the apple juice before you pour it on, maybe throw in some vanilla extract, too.

For a truly raw jam, juice your own organic apples and use that. Organic apples around here are costly- New Mexico is not exactly apple country- so I used organic apple juice from the store.

When the jam is done, it doesn't look like jam, it looks like this:

but then you spread it on bread and- kazam- jam:

The very best, most economical place to get seedless rose hips is Mountain Rose Herbs. Their shipping is a bit steep, I admit, but they are worth it.

This recipe, in one of its forms, can be found in Rosemary Gladstar's Recipes for Vibrant Health my most-highly recommended herbal reference for beginners on up.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
~George Eliot

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Herbs- Finally!

As much as I love Amazon and iherb, when I want real quality, I buy from Mountain Rose Herbs. It's worth the wait.

Tinctures, a do-it-yourself guide

Usually I wait until it's a desperate situation. You know, everyone oozing green snot and rubbing red eyes.

"Uh-oh, I need some echinacea!"

I trudge off to the health food store and mutter under my breath about the insanity of spending ten dollars on one OUNCE of echinacea tincture. And then scold myself for not having made any myself 6 weeks ago in preparation for cold season.

I buy my little brown dropper bottle, drive home, and in a few days, everyone is cheery, bright-eyed and snot-free.

Well, this year I am not putting it off, darn it, I am making my own echinacea tincture NOW, so it's ready in time for Sicky Season.

It's a ridiculously simple process. You need three things:
1) dried echinacea herb- I buy mine online at Mountain Rose Herbs, $7 for an organic pound

2) enough vodka or grain alcohol to cover the herb, the cheap stuff is what I use,

3) a huge glass jar

Sterilize your jar (dishwasher is fine) AND DRY THOROUGHLY. Very important. Pour in your herb. Pour in your alcohol.
Make sure you are using enough alcohol to completely immerse the herb. Cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap if you are using a metal lid.

Same process for licorice-cinnamon tincture (this one tastes yummy and doesn't numb your mouth up!):

Now place it in a dark cupboard. Shake every few days. After 6 weeks, strain out the herb, bottle in dark glass, and voila- echinacea tincture!

This costs me about 50 cents an ounce, all told, versus $10 an ounce in the store. 95% savings! WOW!

Always use echinacea in cycles- 5 days on, 2 days off is easy to remember. For children, add the tincture to a pot of freshly brewed herbal tea and let cool with the tea to evaporate much of the alcohol.

This process can be used for any dry herb you use- catnip, lemon balm, feverfew just to name a few.

Let me know if you have success with these directions, won't you?

"The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

(This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. It is for informational purposes only.)