Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

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Ages ago, I promised to write about coconut milk and coconut yogurt

January 15, 2011

Coconut Milk from So DeliciousWell, that day has finally arrived. I’ve been busy writing weekly posts at Firedoglake for “Pull Up A Chair,” and they’ve been taking up my time of late. However, I wish to keep this blog going, too.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to eat dairy, i.e, milk products. Eggs are okay, though many people often think of them as “dairy.” They’re not.

A couple of years ago, I had a lot of dental work done, mostly replacing the silver amalgams in my mouth (read mercury!) and I got pretty sick, lost weight, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t digest my food.

Then, I discovered the coconut milk yogurt made by So Delicious. It really put me back on the track to good health. It contains probiotics and because it is non-dairy, I can actually eat it. Most of my friends prefer the Greek-style yogurt, but I doubt I could eat that successfully.

The coconut yogurt and the milk, too, have some great nutritional advantages. Both are good for your digestive and immune systems. And both contain medium-chain fatty acids, which you use for energy, rather than storing as fat, like the long-chain fatty acids.

If you don’t care for the yogurt, you can still use the milk in soups and such. I always use both almond and coconut milk when I make a butternut squash soup. They give it a real velvety texture.

And I use both milks when I make cocoa with some fare trade cocoa powder. I just add some honey and heat it all up in the micro-wave. Make sure the cup  or bowl is large enough that it won’t boil over while you’re heating it.

So Delicious also makes a non-refrigerated version of its milk, in a box like Almond Breeze, as well as various flavors of coffee creamer and ice creams and novelties.

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Home-made Vegetable Soup

September 13, 2010

soup ingredients

I used to start off with onions in olive oil in a big soup pot, but this past weekend, I learned on America’s Test Kitchen, that onions should be cooked in butter, so they don’t become bitter. So… I started off melting some butter in my largest pot, while I chopped up the onion. Once I added the chopped onions, I added some salt, too, and then a single shallot.

sweating the vegetables

Next, I added the root vegetables… three parsnips, a rutabaga and four carrots. These quantities are just what I happened to have on hand. Usually, I add turnips, too, but didn’t see any that I liked this week; nor did I have any leeks. With each addition, I added a bit more salt, and I added some olive oil, too. Then I put the lid on them and let them sweat… the combination of heat, salt, oil and the vegetables’ own moisture makes them sweat, drawing out their flavors. Next went in part of the soup herb blend, some thyme, oregano and rosemary. Later on, I removed the herbs’ stems. Sometimes, I’ll use just parsley and dill, but I add those later, since they are more tender. I order as much of the produce as I can online, from a local supplier who buys all of their products from local and regional farms, and as much as possible, I try to buy organic. I have never heard of anyone dying due to lack of enough pesticides in their diet.

Potatoes are next. I always peel them carefully, partly because I don’t like an earthy taste to my soup, but also because potatoes always seem to have that greenish cast beneath their skins and I’ve read that green substance is not good for us. So, I remove all of it.

Once the potatoes are in the pot, it’s time to add some liquid. I start with that entire container of vegetable broth, then add some bottled water. I like Deer Park, but you can use whatever you prefer. Our tap water doesn’t agree with me, so I don’t use it for soup.

Usually two cans of canellini beans are next, but I only had one, and usually a small can of diced tomatoes, but this time I didn’t have any, so I used a couple of fresh tomatoes, instead. Not quite as good, but good enough.

frozen vegetables

Then, I add some frozen vegetables. I like a hearty soup and I can’t always get everything I want fresh. So, I usually add some frozen shoepeg corn, some petite peas and lima beans. The corn adds a bit of sweetness, the peas some fiber and the lima beans some additional substance and structure. I added some frozen spinach to this soup, too, but it was not available for the photo shoot.

Time for the soup to come up to a boil, before I turn it down to a simmer. The frozen vegetables cool it down considerably, so I turn the heat up quite a bit.

Generally, I spend about an hour and a half to two hours making a pot of soup, from start to finish. Then I let it cool down a bit before I put it into those plastic containers with the screw-on lids, and I let it cool again, before I put the containers into the refrigerator.

I have a soup following at work. Usually, I’m carrying three or four servings of soup to work each day.

This past weekend, I also made some butternut squash soup, but, alas, I have no photos of that soup. I plan to make some more next weekend, though, and will try to get some photos.

Photos courtesy of Paul Del Rossi

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How to stay well during the Fall, Winter & Spring months…

September 10, 2010

a simple dry brush

Now that Fall is approaching and Winter will be just around the corner… it’s time to talk about how to stay healthy.

Some of you may get a flu shot… I never do, because I am particularly sensitive to medications. Mostly, they just don’t agree with me. I don’t even use the over-the-counter painkillers.

But, I do use a number of alternative means to stay healthy.

First, get thee to a health food store or to a Whole Foods and purchase a long-handled brush with natural bristles. You may use this to assist your lymphatic system, since it needs help, because it does not have a pump, as your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems do.

Then, use Google to search for the “benefits of dry skin brushing.” Don’t read just one link. You’ll find lots of duplication among various links, but sometimes a link may have a different emphasis, or a hint that another link does not have. Using a dry brush before you shower or bathe every day is one of the least expensive things you can do for your overall health. A brush with natural bristles (no plastic or anything synthetic, because they are not good for your skin) will cost between $10 and $15 dollars.

Most places, that’s even cheaper than a flu shot. (If you still wish to get a flu shot, I won’t try to dissuade you. We each know our own body better than anyone else possibly could.) Besides the benefits to your immune system, dry brushing also helps you to wake up and get the blood circulating to  your skin. It also makes your skin softer, and since your skin is your “third kidney,” keeping it soft means it will be easier for toxins in your system to leave your body through your skin.

Dry brushing is not quite like a cup of coffee… more like a cup of tea.

Always, always remember to work from your extremities toward your heart… in order not to put any strain on your blood vessels. Of course, you can just brush down your back. It’s worth noting, too, that lymph fluid moves toward your heart before it leaves your body.  There are lots of lymph nodes under your arms, in the neck and in your thighs, too, of all places. I also brush the bottoms of my feet, just because I like the way it feels; my feet are sometimes a bit stiff in the morning. 

Take as much time as you like. A few minutes each day is probably enough, but if you still get sick, you might wish to do this twice a day. Just consider the extra hot water to be cheaper — in many ways — than antibiotics, especially when you consider what antibiotics do to your digestive system. (That will be a topic for a future post.) Of  course, if you have a bacterial infection, you will need a course of antibiotcs, followed by some yogurt with probiotics to restore the flora in your digestive tract.

Over time, dry brushing is also supposed to help minimize or eliminate cellulite… that is not an overnight process, but it is worth remembering.

Next, consider buying some powdered Vitamin C and Vitamin D3 in drops. I take a 1/4 tsp of the Vitamin C and 5,000 IU of the Vitamin D3 in a small glass of water. It’s only mildly tart. We all know the benefits of Vitamin C, but Vitamin D3’s benefits are less well-known. It is a wonderful aid to your immune system, can help you to prevent certain kinds of cancer, AND it can help you to keep from getting the flu. Both the method and the dose were recommended to me by an orthopedic surgeon, because women need more D than men do, and if we take enough D, we need less calcium. Those of us who live in the northern climes need Vitamin D even more, becauses we get little or no sun during the fall, winter and spring months… and Vitamin D is such an important factor in keeping well.

You might prefer to take the C in a chewable form and the D in a capsule, but that doesn’t work for me. The fillers upset my stomach. Besides, these forms are far cheaper and given the cost of health care insurance, who among us does not wish to save a little money where we can? Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask your doctor to check the levels of Vitamin D in your blood before you begin to take it.

Both of these vitamins are easily available at a Vitamin Shoppe or at many health food stores. So is the dry brush.

Finally, make a big pot of vegetable soup on the weekend and eat it during the week. Breakfast, lunch or dinner… it does not matter. Just eat it. There is nothing better for you during the fall/winter months than homemade vegetable soup, and if you can get local or regional vegetables (preferably organic), you’re way ahead of the game. Root vegetables are an excellent source of fiber and of vitamins and trace minerals, as well as other nutrients. Trace minerals are often overlooked when we think about the nutrients we need every day. And eating meals made with water and broth or stock also helps us to keep from becoming dehydrated… yes, even in the winter.

I make my soup with vegetable stock or broth, since I live with a vegetarian, but it’s fairly simple to add some protein to a serving, if you would prefer. Sometimes, I’ll add a little bit of chicken before I heat it up. When I add sardines — to make a poor woman’s chowder — I add them afterward, so that they don’t permeate the air flow at work or at home.

Next post, I’ll explain all about how to make soup. The most important thing to know is that you must allow the vegetables to sweat.

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The 70% solution… ?

February 28, 2006

I was planning to post something about chocolate anyway, and then there was a news story today about its health benefits– especially for the cardiovascular system– which included a link to a peer-reviewed article with lots of details, many of which were over my head.

However, I did catch the one about consuming 100g per day for two weeks in order to lower one’s blood pressure. (Mine’s gone up a bit since I’ve been eating butterscotch like it’s going out of style.) And, I thought it might be worth a small trial of my own. Especially, since my favorite bar comes in exactly that “dose.” And apparently there is a dose-response. At least in elderly Dutch men. This will mean a trip to CVS, where I can both take my blood pressure, and purchase a larger supply of Lindt bars than I usually have on hand. Further updates will follow…

And, in the meantime, another story on some surprising relationships between food and health arrived in my emailbox via The Progressive, and this one went much further than merely advocating for chocolate…

UPDATE ~ Same Day:
Today’s BP: 138 over 74 w/ a heart rate of 76.
[I always use to be well under the “normal” 120 over 80.]

UPDATE ~ March 5th: [I decided to measure it twice.]
1st BP: 137 over 76 w/ a heart rate of 71;
2nd BP: 132 over 74 w/ a heart rate of 66.