Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?


Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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Almost three years ago, my husband was diagnosed with a triglyceride level of someone twice his weight, and was borderline diabetic. Not wanting to be tied down to a lifetime of prescription drugs, he opted to adjust his cholesterol levels by adjusting his diet. Fortunately we had the support of our family doctor in this transition.

I immediately started poaching everything, removed butters and switched to olive oil and margarine, swapped to skim milk from 2%. We removed all cured meats, breads and pasta from our diet, in addition to the few boxed and frozen processed foods like macaroni and cheese that we ate. We added wheat germ and removed egg yolks, in other words – we did everything the American Heart Association suggests in their diet.

Hubby also stopped eating cheeseburgers and french fries at lunch. He started eating vegetarian wraps for lunch and within a short time he lost 30 pounds without exercise. In essence he starved himself. He ate likely less than 1200 calories a day and he had almost no fats or sugars going into his body because we limited ourselves strictly to protein and vegetables. And it showed. Sure, he lost the few pounds he needed, but he looked hollow and weak. His shoulders looked like those of someone twice his age, he had circles under his eyes, and his skin looked sallow. What was important at that time was that his triglycerides were where they belonged.

One year ago our family warily committed itself to the Real Food Challenge. And while I had already introduced organic homemade butter and milk to our diets and we had baby chicks on the way, I don’t think we were quite prepared for the changes the Challenge would make to our lifestyle.

Hubby gained 10 pounds immediately, but his cholesterol levels remained healthy because we added good fats to our diet (no sugar), and he’d long stopped “starving” himself. We didn’t realize that we’d want to keep eating Real Food forever. I thought after that month that I would go back to purchasing some pre-made foods, but even sandwich bread, no matter the brand, tasted flat and dead to me – and all other foods are too sweet or salty.

We’d grown accustomed to the taste and flavors of good, healthy food. Sure there were some flops. My husband didn’t care for my pasta recipe, I’d had homemade wines explode in my storage room, and there were last minute bread baking adventures.

I didn’t know that I’d become an advocate for food in a society where women are supposed to shy away from eating heartily. I wasn’t aware that I’d fear eating processed foods again. I was surprised how much I’d love to cook on a daily basis since now it’s all an experiment. I was amazed at the wonderful flavors Real Food had and appalled at the flavors processed food lacked.

For some odd reason our culture has equated eating tons of meat, large portions of food, dining out too much, eating fast food or processed box meals with the lifestyle to have. Sorry, but if I were to compare my life to the Jones’ I wouldn’t want to be so busy that I would have to resort to eating this way. And if you know someone who eats this way because they cannot afford to eat healthfully, perhaps you could share something from your garden with them this year, or share some knowledge to help them eat and cook better.

As for Hubby and I, the Real Food Challenge is like an anniversary of sorts reminding us why we spend the extra time and money to eat the way we do. We actually decide what we’ll give up in order to afford this lifestyle.  We’re always looking for new recipes and trying to stay on top of healthy eating news. If you need some ideas for recipes or information pertaining to the Challenge, be sure to click on the Resource tab at the top of this page. Also, at the end of this month, we’ll be giving a few things away in celebration of the Real Food Challenge.

Be sure to stay with us all month long!


You can find Jennifer at Unearthing this Life where she blargs about raising chickens, a daughter, and gardens; shares recipes and rants; and otherwise discusses life in rural Tennessee, often with a view from the back of a motorcycle.

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I have learned so much over the past few weeks about the treatment of cancer…specifically breast cancer.

There are so many drugs, treatments, and surgeries that can be used in the modern medical arsenal in this life and death struggle

We have received loads of paperwork describing the symptoms to expect with the varies methods of treatment. We have received an equal number of paperwork describing how each treatment effects the body.  And even more on how to cope with them.

I have read every single word on every single line on each page of information.

What I have found completely shocking is the lack of reference to good nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment.

Actually there had not been one word…NOT ONE!

How is that even possible?

The link between what goes in our mouths and the health of our bodies is very clear.  Study after study shows that basically ‘you are what your eat’.

Yet in the fight for her life not one single doctor, nurse practitioner, RN, or CNA  has even mentioned diet or nutrition.

I asked the very nice nurse in charge of her ‘chemo training’ about getting some information on nutrition.  And note that this is a fairly large dedicated cancer center my mom is being treated at,  full of different oncologists, chemo treatment rooms, labs, radiation treatment rooms, and such.

Here is the conversation I had with her….

Do you have any hand-outs on what to eat during chemo to help keep her healthy and her immune system up?

A hand-out?

Yes, one covering nutrition.

Ummm…we don’t have anything like that.

You have hand-outs covering everything else including how to buy a wig but you don’t have anything on nutrition?


Me looking confused.

But there is a dietitian over at the hospital that you could possibly see.

Does she specialize in treating cancer patients.

Well no, she mostly sees heart and diabetic patients.

Me looking astonished.

To be honest we usually tell cancer patients to eat whatever sounds good.

Even if its McDonalds Big Mac and fries?


Me sitting there dumbfounded and speechless

I did not expect diet to be a big part of her treatment.

But to completely ignore the effects of diet on a sick patient seems utterly inconceivable to me.  It is short-sighted and ignorant in my personal opinion.

So I have been devouring every book I can get my hands on, reading website after website on the subject of diet on disease, especially cancer.

I will be back next week to let you know what I have learned.

And be assured I firmly believe that diet does indeed play an important part in treatment of disease…cancer included.

Even if the medical establishment in our town chooses to think otherwise.

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With the premier of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series on TV (which I begrudgingly watched with Mr Chiots) there’s been a flurry of posting on the internet about the school lunch program and the health of the children in this country. I have very strong opinions about this matter, and food in general. Since we spent the month of March focusing on Real Food I thought this might be a good time for us to discuss the feeding of our children.

Who’s responsible for the nutrition and feeding of children?
the government? the state? the community? the school? the parents?

photo courtesy of al la corey on Flickr

What Is the National School Lunch Program?
According to the USDA website: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

A Little History of the School Lunch Program
The school lunch program was started by Harry S. Truman in 1946 for reasons of “National Security”. He read a study that said many soldiers that wanted to join the armed services for WWII were denied due to medical issue caused by malnutrition in childhood (note: my grandpa was rejected because he was double jointed in his elbows). The school lunch program was expanded by Lydon Johnson to include breakfasts in 1966 and summer lunches in 1968.

Since its inception, the school lunch/meals programs have become available in more than 98,800 schools. The 2004/05 school year reported that over 9.2 million children participated in the breakfast and lunch programs; and as many as 1.6 million children took advantage of the summer meals program that same year. *

What were school kids lunches like before school lunch programs?

What did children bring for school lunch in the 19th century? History books tell us their meals were usually composed of leftovers from the previous day. This means Italian, Irish, Swedish, Jewish and German immigrant schoolchildren likely consumed very different foods for lunch. A century later, ample evidence reveals home-packed lunches still reflected family heritage and economic status. The classic “American melting pot” school lunch of sandwich, fruit, dessert & drink was promoted by the same folks who worked hard to establish school lunch programs.

Possible “melting pot-type” school lunches based on period cookbooks are these:

1. Ham salad (or just plain ham) on whole wheat, graham crackers, fruit (apple, grapes, strawberries)
2. Chicken breast on roll, deviled eggs, carrot sticks & celery curls, ginger snaps or ginger bread
3. Corn bread & jelly, beef jerky, dried cranberries or raisins, popcorn balls
4. Cornish pasty (small portable pie filled with meat & vegetables), fruit (plums, pears, cherries), sugar cookies
5. Deviled ham (Underwood Company began in 1869) & soda crackers/saltines, canned fruit (peaches, pears), muffin (blueberry, apple, cranberry) **

What were school lunches like when they were first being introduced?
School lunch menu in Philadelphia in 1917
Monday: Baked beans and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Tuesday: Vegetable soup and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Wednesday: Creamed beef on toast and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Thursday: Macaroni with tomato sauce and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream
Friday: Creamed salmon and roll, Cocoa or milk, crackers or ice cream**

photo courtesy of Writing Program PTW on Flickr

So, the school lunch program is providing “nutritionally balanced” meals to our kids? really? I remember school lunches, I rarely ate them and I remember not liking them and knowing they were unhealthy. We packed our lunches because my parents knew school lunches weren’t healthy. Our lunches were simple and delicious, sandwiches on whole grain bread, carrot sticks, apples, fruit, cheese, etc. Visit the Fed Up With Lunch blog to see what school lunches actually look like.

I believe it’s a parent’s responsibility to feed their children healthy food. My parents were always proactive about keeping us healthy and about providing good food for us. We didn’t have tons of toys or tons of clothes, but we had good food and we spent a lot of time being active. Because my parents made the effort to make sure we had healthy childhoods my brother and sister and I have the blessing of being healthy adults. Sadly in our society many don’t see fast food and junk food as unhealthy (or they just don’t want to admit it since they consume so much of it). I had a friend recently who was taking her son to checkup. The son happened to mention that he was going to start drinking raw milk. The doctor gave my friend a lecture about the dangers of raw milk and how it wasn’t good for kids. This is very sad, especially coming from a doctor, because if the boy had said he was excited that his mom was going to take him to McDonald’s after the appointment the doctor would have said nothing about that.

It’s interesting to me that many people will make sure their children wear their bicycle helmets, but don’t make them eat any vegetables. Sure our children may be emotionally happy, have tons of toys, and access to health care, but if we’re not nourishing them properly what kind of future will they have? This doesn’t just affect the lives of our children but it affects the future of our country and society. These children are the future adults/leaders/parents of our country and we’re not doing a very good job of equipping them with basic health so they can enjoy a prosperous future. It’s one thing if you don’t want to eat healthfully yourself as an adult, but when you don’t nourish your children well you’re setting them up for a grim future.

Who’s responsibility do you think a child’s nutrition is?

*cited from Education Bug
**cited from FoodTimeline.org

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I’ve spent the last week making mental notes of which prepared foods I will be replacing with homemade, and those that will be leaving all together. Getting ready for our Real Food Challenge.

I have gathered some cracker recipes to have on hand for crunchy snacks.  I have also dug out the old air popper and stocked up on organic corn for popped corn instead of chips.  My oat jar is full and standing by for homemade granola and my grain bins are full ready to be ground into flour for bread and cookies.

I have also been looking around for any information about processed foods and their health effects…

In my recent TIME magazine under the large article called ‘The Science of Living Longer’ one of the suggestions for health was “Choose foods that look the same when you eat them as when they come out of the ground…”

The nutrition magazine that our local health food store has called ‘Better Nutrition’ had a little blurb in it that stated “Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and fish boosts mood. In contrast, processed foods contribute to depression, according to a study of 3,486 civil servants in the United Kingdom, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry’

Interesting…I always know that you were helping you body with good nutrition but I never had considered your mental state getting a boost from avoiding processed foods.  When you think about it anything that is good for the body surely is good for the mind!

And when you have a little time (it’s a long article) you might want to read this article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan titled ‘Unhappy Meals’

A couple of his tips for eating well are…

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,

Avoid foods with ingredients that unfamiliar, you can’t pronounce, have more than 5 ingredients

Get out of the Supermarket whenever possible…you won’t find high fructose corn syrup at the Farmer’s Market

Pay More, Eat Less.  Eat foods that are grown well and organic even though they may cost more.  Then eat less…

So I am slowly gearing up and getting ready…how about you?  Have you thought about the changes you are going to make for our challenge?

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After receiving many questions about knowing when the saurkraut is finished fermenting I decided to do a post about it. I finished off my kraut this morning and took a few photos to share. After 2-4 weeks, depending on the temp, you should notice that your kraut is no longer bubbling, or is bubbling much less than it was. I usually notice that the brine starts going down instead of spilling over after 3-4 weeks. The warmer it is, the quicker your sauerkraut will finish fermenting (at 70-80 it will take 2-3 weeks at 60 it will take 4-6 weeks). Mine was finished a week or two ago, and I started mine on October 28, it took about 4 weeks to finish fermenting. You will also notice that your sauerkraut become kind of clear, or loses it’s whiteness.

Another way to decide if your sauerkraut is finished is by smell. If you don’t have a good sense of what sauerkraut smells like, but some and smell it. Warm it a bit on the stove and the smell will become more pronounced. It smells pleasantly sour almost vinegary. You don’t want it to smell “off” or moldy.

Don’t be alarmed if some mold or scum forms on top of your kraut while it’s fermenting. Just skim it off and add some more brine. If your brine level gets low and some of the top layer of cabbage gets moldy, simply skim off that cabbage and add more brine (1T. of salt for 1 quart of water for extra brine).

When your sauerkraut is finished, simply take out the jar/bag that you’re using to weigh it down, top off with brine, throw a lid on it and put it in the fridge or in your cool root cellar. Use 1T. of salt for 1 quart of water for extra brine.

You can can it if you’re worried about the coolness of your root cellar or don’t have room in the fridge (to can process in a waterbath canner for 15 minutes). If you can it you kill all the good bacteria though, so it won’t be a good source of probiotics. I like my sauerkraut cooked, so I occasionally can it. Sometimes, however I just lid the jar and put it in the basement.

Do you have any great tips to know when you’re fermented products are finished?

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It seems kind of funny to me that by learning how to take better care of my livestock, I learned how to take better care of my family.  I always assumed that items I purchased at the feed store were what my livestock needed.  Just like the grocery store, the products offered for sale are good for you… .  Right?  It took learning alternative farming methods to wake me up.

We always bought the 50 lb trace mineral salt blocks for our cows.  They lasted a long time, and gee they sure lasted quite a while in the rain too.   I never questioned the practice of having refined salt mixed with minerals and pressed into a block.  Like the cow says in Babe, “The way things are, is the way things are.”  Just like taking the germ and bran from the wheat and then combining them again in a granola recipe.  Not good.  Sure all the ingredients are good for you, but in their natural state, not after they have been subjected to the Industrial Revolution method of extracting every last item that possibly can be sold for some “better” use. 

We used loose salt, for salting our hay when storing it in the barn, but give loose salt to the cattle?  Pshaw, who heard of such a thing.  Throw a block or two out there and call it good, and if the pattern they licked into it was interesting, just enter it in a contest.

Once we started giving the cows loose salt, we realized how little salt they had been able to get from those hard licks.  We still were using refined white “feed mixing salt” and they were going through it like mad.  “Geez, a couple of them ol’ blocks would last all summer – what gives, now the dang fools got brain fever or sumpin.”  ” We’re gonna go broke just buyin’ salt fer them critters!”  We stocked up on salt after that first summer of salt enlightenment.  Big mistake.  We discovered how to make our own salt blocks.  Let’s just say we live in a “moist” environment.  By spring, all our extra bags of salt, had become concrete pillows of salt. 

But something had happened over winter, we had read even more about salt, and found some like minded individuals.  We learned that salt was really more important as an industrial commodity.  The industrial concerns get first pick, and the lowly humans and even lower livestock get the rest.  Human salt gets subjected to the same caustic soda treatment as the industrial salt.  Extracted components so important for health are worth much more in the chemical market.  Dessicants and bleaches are added to the refined salt, making it even more unhealthy to consume.  No wonder they recommended low salt diets.  Salt missing it’s magnesium salt component is very bad for us.  After reading this, we bought Redmond mineral salt for our cows.  We offered it free choice, and they loved it.  It only cost about $2.50 more per bag, and even though the salt was naturally moist, it never became hard and unusable.  We never looked back.

Along these same lines, we had also attended several symposiums where Sally Fallon was a keynote speaker.  Her talks about forming the Weston A. Price Foundation were stimulating and especially sessions about good salt being so necessary for true health.  Her recommendation for table salt was Celtic Sea Salt, real sun dried sea salt, with its actual brine intact.  Not to be confused with refined sea salt found in most stores, (including health food stores) Celtic Sea Salt retains all the macro and trace minerals present in natural salts. 

There are many excellent natural salts available.  We have settled on Celtic Sea Salt, and Redmond Real salt for the humans that reside at our farm, and Redmond Natural mineral salt for our livestock.  In our area these are easy to obtain and aren’t really that much more expensive than the alternative. 

A great book on the subject of Celtic Sea Salt and salt in general is:  Seasalt’s Hidden Powers, The Biological Action of All Ocean Minerals on Body and Mind, by Jacques de Langre, Ph.D.

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RealSalt and Celtic Sea Salt. 


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RealSalt and Celtic Sea Salt.  I use the RealSalt in recipes and for the table, and the Celtic Sea Salt in moist recipes that give the salt crystals time to dissolve.

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