Friday, December 30, 2011

Boosting Immunity {Real Health}

I just wanted to share a few ways we are boosting our family's immunity.  Some of this we do year round simply because it's always a good idea (for overall health), and some we do concentrated in the cold and flu season for boosted immunity.  This is not everything possible you could do, but it's the things our family is focusing on!  I do not believe it is necessary to feel like we have to rely on doctors and laboratory made medicines to get through sickness.  It is good for our bodies to fight through things - it strengthens the immune system every time.  Fevers are good, and giving the body things to fight sickness with is key!  So let's give these things to our bodies even before they get sick, and then increase these things when sickness sets in. 

This is kind of long, but hopefully it will read quickly and give you some ideas of things to implement or use when sick and maybe a few things you might want to look into!  

Boosting Immunity:  
1.  Food 
  • Coconut Oil
    • A great short article to explain some of the great properties of this amazing oil.  Here's an excerpt from it: 
      • Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. and author of The Coconut Oil Miracle shares, "Laboratory tests have shown that the MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) found in coconut oil are effective in destroying viruses that cause influenza, measles, herpes, mononucleosis hepatitis C, and AIDS; bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, throat infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, meningitis, gonorrhea, and toxic shock syndrome; fungi and yeast that lead to ringworm, candida, and thrush; and parasites that can cause intestinal infections such as giardiasis." Sounds like a powerhouse to me.

        The antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of coconut oil are directly attributed to the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in the oil, including capric acid and caprylic acid, and the powerful lauric acid. These fatty acids are concentrated in coconut oil; they make up over 60 percent of all that's in the oil.

        Medium chain fatty acids are unique and found in only a few places in nature. Interestingly, another place medium-chain fatty acids are found is in mother's milk. In mother's milk, these medium-chain fatty acids are what protects the infant as his/her immune system is developing. And the more the mom has in her body, the more protection the infant will receive.
    • A short video 
    • We cook with this as often as possible, but I think raw is best - we will mix it with elderberry syrup (see below under 'medicines') and take some every day.  I will put some in warm (not hot) tea (chamomile, ginger-lemon-honey tea, other teas).  If you can stomach it, eat it straight off a spoon.  You can also mix with honey to eat it, and I think adding cinnamon would help with the taste as well. 
  • Broth 
    • I will be focusing on making more and more soups during this season - for GAPS reasons (digestion and skin problems flare up when soups aren't as present in our diet as they should be) and for immunity.  We have eaten soup for every single dinner and almost every lunch this week and we have enjoyed them all!  
    • Here is a fantastic article explaining why it is so good for you!!
    • Everyone knows you should eat soup when you get sick.  (MAKE YOUR OWN!!)  Try eating it on a consistent basis, especially when it's cooler outside, to prevent sickness, strengthen your gut and immune system, and to help you recover more quickly when you do get sick.  
    • If you need some ideas, look at my recipes tab for any of the soups.  Add extra garlic to your bowl right before eating it! :-) 
  • Foods containing Vitamin D and C
  •  Juicing
    • We have noticed a great help to our immune systems in how we fight sickness and how fast we recover while we've been juicing.  My assumption is it is all the extra minerals and enzymes.  We've had sicknesses with juice and without, and we've done SO much better when we've had juice.  Keep in mind this is homemade fresh juice with a variety of vegetables, so you cannot compare that to store bought apple or orange juice.  We only use apples in our juice to make it palatable for everyone in the family (no other fruits yet).  We use many carrots, cucumbers, spinach, celery, cabbage, beetroot, and kale.  
  •  Garlic
    • Great resource about garlic. 
    • I use this liberally in our soups - best added crushed in at the end, right before you eat.  Add the garlic, turn the heat off the soup, cover with a lid, and let sit for about 10 minutes.  It tastes amazing and is so helpful! 
    • Another way to use garlic is to crush a few cloves and put in a small bowl with a little olive oil.  Let that sit for 30 minutes or so and then you can rub the oil onto the bottoms of your feet and put socks on.  
  • Ginger
2.  Supplements
  • FCLO - countless great things about this stuff, but the Vitamin A and D content is what shines.  This is a superfood and there is only one brand that makes it traditionally without processing that harms the nutrients.  And you can get capsules!
  • Probiotics - there are countless probiotics out there, but I have heard great things about BioKult, Custom, and some others.  Make sure it is a high quality (this is something you don't want to skimp on) and that the ingredients are all good - especially anything added.  We have used BioKult (they also make a baby formula for children under 2 since their guts are populated differently than adults).
3.  Lifestyle
  • No compromises of sugar or grains as they are taxing on the gut and therefore the immune system.  Okay, who am I was just Christmas.  But we're going back to no compromises.  Fo' Real y'all.  :-)  I am doing this
  • Spending time out in the sun for vitamin D as often as possible, for as long as possible between 11 and 1, with as much skin exposes as possible (and appropriate if we're at a park or something haha!).  
  • Rest - consistent naps and bedtimes, as much as possible, even during this time of year when things are usually busier. 
  • This one is funny to me - less baths for the kiddos.  And when we do baths, only use soap if absolutely necessary (like if little one smeared butter all in his hair!).  Over-cleanliness and lack of bacteria on us can actually lead to weaker immune systems.  Also, only use soap if necessary for us as well!  This is fascinating - not just about bacteria but also about vitamin d!!
  • We try to never use soaps with antibacterial stuff in them because a) i don't want my kids having antibiotics on their skin and therefore in their blood because of the harm they do to them and b) the overuse of antibiotics and stuff leads to stronger and more resistant bugs in our world and I hate that. 
4.  Medicines
  • Elderberry syrup at first signs of sickness, taken with coconut oil for those who can tolerate that :-).  Here's a great short video to show you how simple it is to make it!
  • Thieves essential oil - used as soon as sickness appears and can be used in household cleaning after having lots of people at your house.  I have also used Melrose blend effectively against a bad ear infection and my son healed from that without antibiotics.  And it was a nasty ear infection.  :-)
  • Homeopathic remedies - as soon as sickness starts to show! 
    • I have been astounded at the result of using homeopathic remedies in a few sicknesses over the past few months.  I feel like I hardly know anything about this, but I am trying to learn.  We got this kid's kit and it has helped a lot!  I have seen a major fast healing from a high fever in the night and fast recovery from that virus from using the right remedy.  Can't wait to learn more and hopefully find a homeopath in our area.  

I know that was a lot, but hopefully it was encouraging or helpful to someone!   I know there are countless other ways to boost our immune systems and help through sickness, and I look forward to constantly learning these!  I am interested in learning about herbs that are helpful as well as essential oils and homeopathic remedies. 

Please share any information you have about how you boost immunity and fight sicknesses!!  I am so indebted to the online blogging community for everything I have learned about food and health.  It is the main way I have been exposed to this stuff!! 

    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Beef and Mushroom Soup {Recipe}

    Can I keep calling every recipe a favorite?  I think there is some kind of limit, right?  Oh well!  We all love this and my 3 year old asks for it and gets the most excited look on his face when I tell him we're having mushroom soup. 

    This soup is very versatile in that you can add a variety of different vegetables to it and it will taste oh so very good.  I love having another successful soup recipe that uses beef broth.  We adore beef broth, but having the same 1 or 2 recipes all the time can get a little tiring.

    I based this soup off of a paleo salisbury steak recipe that we LOVE.  LOVE love LOVE.  But like I said, I needed another beef broth based soup, so I gave this a try.  Not quite like a salisbury steak, but still delicious, satisfying, and very GAPS/Paleo friendly.  This is appropriate for GAPSters as soon as you can use herbs!!!  YAY! 

    I will share the basic recipe and then some modifications and variations you can make. 

    Beef and Mushroom Soup {Recipe} - Paleo/GAPS Stage 1+
    • 2 Tbsp fat of your choice (butter, ghee, tallow, lard, coconut oil)
    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
    • 1 quart homemade beef broth 
    •  2-3 Tbsp butter (or other fat)
    • 1-2 lbs mushrooms - I used baby bella, sliced or quartered (use less or more mushrooms depending on how much you and your family like mushrooms)
    • 3/4 tsp - 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tbsp thyme
    • 1 tsp rubbed sage
    • 1/2 tsp marjoram
    • 1 tsp (plus more to taste) celtic or himalayan salt
    • optional: 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic
    • In dutch oven or other soup pot, heat fat of your choice.  Brown ground beef.  When almost done, add chopped onion (and any other longer cooking vegetables you want to add such as carrots) and saute for a few minutes. 
    • Add seasonings (garlic, thyme, sage, marjoram, and salt) and mix well. 
    • Add beef broth, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer.  
    • While soup simmers, heat butter in a large skillet.  Saute mushrooms until nicely browned.  Once vegetables in the soup are almost tender, add browned mushrooms and simmer until vegetables are done.  Another option is to simply add mushrooms at the same time as the onions OR once you are simmering the soup if you don't care about sauteing the mushrooms in butter.  This can save time if you are in a hurry.  Just throw them in with everything else and simmer until vegetables and mushrooms are done! 
    • Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.  
    • If using optional garlic cloves, once soup is done, add crushed garlic, bring back to a boil, stir, cover, and turn heat off.  Let soup sit about 10 minutes before serving.  
    • Enjoy!  
    • Stage 1 or 2 GAPS intro: just omit herbs and do a simple mushrooms beef soup with any vegetables you can use! 
    • Vegetables to add:  In the picture above, I added a few handfuls of spinach to my bowl and simply ladled the hot soup over the spinach.  It was hot enough to wilt the spinach, and I loved the spinach in the soup!  I honestly would put a ton of spinach in this every time, but our little ones won't eat spinach leaves in soup.  If you like kale in soups, it would be good in this as well.  For our little boys, we added already cooked green peas to their bowls, and they loved that!  Carrots are great in this soup also, just add with onions at the beginning. 
    • Homemade sour cream/yogurt cream/yogurt is great added to this soup at the table!  Just make sure your soup has cooled down enough to not kill all the raw cultured goodness :-). 
    • You can use stew meat instead of ground beef.  I have made this with stew meat and simply simmer the meat in broth and seasonings until cooked and tender.  Then I removed the stew meat and shredded it.  Add it back into the broth and continue with adding vegetables and mushrooms!  It was great, and it's nice to vary the texture of meats in soups when you eat soup a lot :-). 
    Hope you enjoy! 

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    Larabars and Laraballs {Recipe} and Soaking and Dehydrating Nuts {Method}

    Update: I have updated the chocolate larabar recipe with amounts if you use only almonds.  See the recipe below!

    How have I never had one of these before?!  I still haven't had an official one from the store, but I saw that a sweet friend of mine made some, so I had to try them.  I wanted to share them they're so good!

    We LOVE the cherry pie recipe!  LOVE!

    Here's one I put together today that we also love.  It has just the right level of chocolateyness without being too bitter (since it uses unsweetened chocolate). If I were just making these for myself, I would probably do 1.5-2 oz of the chocolate (depending on what kind of mood I was in haha). 

    I have made all of these with just walnuts because we don't have almonds right now.  Read here why I am not buying almonds in stores anymore.  I will be receiving a shipment of truly raw and safe almonds in January and will then start using a combination of almonds and walnuts in these.
    Hint of Chocolate larabars/laraballs {Recipe}
    Ingredients (all walnuts):
    • 2 cups soaked and dehydrated walnuts (below)
    • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
    • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate  
    Ingredients (all almonds):
    • 2 cups almonds (raw, soaked, dehydrated)
    • 2 1/2 cups dates (might need to add more)
    • 2 oz 100% chocolate (you can adjust this amount if you want less or more chocolate taste)
      • Put the chocolate in a food processor and process until fairly finely chopped (you don't want big chunks of unsweetened chocolate.  or maybe you do. process until it's the consistency you want.)
      •  Add nuts and dates and process until finely chopped.  Press into a glass dish, refrigerate, and then you can cut into individual bars.  Alternatively, you can scoop up about a tablespoon and press into balls!  That's super fun and easy to grab out of the fridge for a quick snack.  Enjoy!  This is great when you are wanting some chocolate.  mmmmmm......
      • You can easily use a combination of walnuts and almonds instead of all walnuts or all almonds.  

      How to Soak and Dehydrate Nuts/Seeds {Method}

      Try and get truly raw nuts (cashews are not truly raw as they are always heated before sale because they are toxic truly raw).  Almonds you buy in the store are not truly raw.  You must buy directly from a farmer to get truly raw almonds.
      • Cover nuts with filtered water and salt and place in a warm place overnight (at least 7 hours).  I usually put mine in glass bowls and put in the oven with the light on for a nice warm place.  I always add celtic salt in the ratios listed below (from Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions" book).  
      • After soaking, drain nuts and spread on cookie sheets and dry in an oven set no higher than 150* until dry and crispy, turning/stirring if needed.  
      • OR use your dehydrator set no higher than 150* until dry and crispy.  It takes much less time with a dehydrator, and since my oven only goes down to 170*, I don't ever use my oven. 
      • Salt Ratios: 
        • Pumpkin Seeds: 4 cups seeds, 2 Tbsp salt
        • Pecans: 4 cups pecans, 2 tsp salt
        • Walnuts: 4 cups walnuts, 2 tsp salt *Important: walnuts contain large amounts of linolenic acid and therefore go rancid much easier than other nuts.  Store them in the refrigerator!! 
        • Almonds: 4 cups almonds, 1 Tbsp salt

      Tuesday, December 20, 2011

      Homemade Yogurt {Nourishing AND Frugal}

      Want to go on a fun little trip with me?!  A trip down break-even-point lane.  This is gonna be fun.  Well, only if you like math and/or accounting.  Maybe it will be fun if you like seeing how making traditional and yummy foods can be better for you AND save you money!

      Homemade yogurt is great for your health and your grocery budget, especially if you eat close to how we eat.  Buying properly raised, healthy, amazing meat and eggs and fresh grass fed milk and raw honey and tons and tons of vegetables and things like ghee and coconut oil and nuts and cod liver oil and probiotics...all that can add it's things like this that help so very much.  Knowing our yogurt is not only extremely good for us but also frugal is so encouraging when I feel like I am spending all our income on food.

      It is also so much better for you than store bought yogurt.  Store bought yogurt is only cultured/fermented about 6 hours from what I've read (sorry, don't have sources, just gonna have to believe me!  Actually, I read that in GAPS from Dr NCM.).  Therefore, there's no way all the lactose is gone from the milk.  Also, it is pasteurized.  Need I say more?  You also don't know how those cows were raised - on pasture or grain in confinement.  Ah, beautiful isn't it?  Here's a great summary about what kind of milk is best.  Here is a great website with great information. 

      So, when you make homemade yogurt, you should culture it for 24 hours (I usually do about 26 in my dehydrator because the milk starts off cold from the fridge, so I give it a little extra time to warm up).  This allows the good bacterial culture to eat up all the lactose.  Tons of good bacteria for your gut and little lactose = amazing food, great nutrition, easy to digest.  People who are sensitive to milk can usually handle this kind of yogurt well, especially if you have healed through something like the GAPS diet. 

      Here's my simple yogurt making process...
      Homemade Raw Milk Yogurt {Process/Method}
      •  Get yourself some jars.  I do 4 quarts at a time, and if I don't have 4 quart jars clean, I just use whatever I have (applesauce jars, pint jars).  Any size 1 quart or less is fine. 
      •  Put PLAIN yogurt in the jars (look for a brand with the best ingredients - just milk and cultures if possible) in this ratio: 1 Tbsp per cup of milk.  
        • So, if you are doing a quart jar, you will put about 4 Tbsp or 1/4 cup of yogurt into each jar. 
        • If you use a pint jar, do about 2 Tbsp. 
      •  Give it a little stir - you don't have to go crazy.  :-)
      •  Put it in your dehydrator (um, heavy on the tray...maybe I should get some plywood cut to be a strong tray?)
      •  Close it up, thank God for a machine like this, set it to anywhere from 95-105 degrees (NOT over 110!!) for 24+ hours.  I usually do 95 or 100 degrees for 26 hours. 
      •  Stick it in the fridge to firm up afterwards.  You can eat the cultured cream off the top (YUM).  You can stir the yogurt really really well and get nice creamy yogurt (won't be nearly as thick as the store bought, though).  You can also strain your yogurt in cheesecloth for a few hours to get greek style yogurt that is nice and thick.  Mmmmm....Enjoy!  See, isn't that easy peasy?! 
      • Other options without a dehydrator: cooler method, seedling heating mat, oven with light on (you can google these things to find out more.  also try searching for gaps yogurt methods if you want to find more information on doing it a different way.)
      So now back to the nerd/fun/budget part...

      I had a little fun figuring out how much the yogurt we make costs us.  Then I thought, wouldn't it be fun to see how much yogurt we would need to make and eat to pay for our amazing dehydrator?!  I know, I'm weird.  So, here you go...on to the fun part! 

      Cost of making homemade, 24 hr cultured, raw grass-fed milk yogurt! 
      • Raw Milk: $7/gallon --> $1.75/quart
      • Yogurt at Store: ~$3.50/quart --> provides starter for 16 quarts of homemade yogurt --> $.22/quart
      • Cost to run Dehydrator: $.04/hour --> $1 for 26 hours, make 4 quarts at a time --> $.25/quart
      Total Cost for 1 quart of Raw, Grass-fed Jersey milk 24 hour cultured yogurt --> $2.22

      If I stopped there, that would be amazing in itself.  Just over $2 for that quality of yogurt?!  Are you wondering why you don't make your own at home yet?  It's not hard, I promise! 

      Savings and break even point (I am such a nerd) 
      • $3.49 (store bought...and sometimes it costs $3.99) - $2.22 (my cost of homemade) = $1.25 savings per quart
      • $1.25 * x# of homemade quarts = $220 cost of dehydrator (to solve for "x")
      • x = 176 quarts to break even (pay the cost of the dehydrator)
      • If we eat/drink 2 quarts per day for our family (not hard if you replace milk with yogurt, use it in soups and on foods almost like sour cream), it takes...
      • 88 days to pay for the dehydrator
      • That's less than 3 months!
      • If we eat/drink only 1 quart per day for our family, it takes...
      • 176 days to pay for the dehydrator 
      • That's less than 6 months!
      That was much less time to pay for it than I expected.  And we use our dehydrator for lots of other things - dehydrating nuts - making them still have the great benefits of raw nuts but soaked for easier digestion and better nutrition, dehydrating fruits and vegetables, and I will soon dive into making beef jerky, maybe pemmican, and fruit leathers.  But really, just to use it for yogurt is worth it to me!

      So, go start making your own yogurt!! 

      Hope you had fun with me! I shared this on frugal days sustainable ways!   :-) 

      Monday, December 19, 2011

      Christmas Feast {Recipes}

      I am working on finalizing our food plans for our Christmas celebrations and thought I would share some links and recipes we will be using.  I am so excited for all this yummy food.  And warning, there are totally some non-GAPS foods on here, but there are also lots of GAPS/Paleo friendly foods.  Just skip the bad stuff.  Sorry to include it all here, but I am just being honest about what we are doing!  :-)   


      Cranberry Sauce
      • Mommypotamus's Recipe - for the pureed, gelatinous kind
      • Nourished and Nurtured - made this at thanksgiving, and we LOVED it!!! Chunkier, which I adore.
      • I am making both, and I am making them ahead of time - yay for less to do Christmas day!

      Green Vegetables
      • Green Beans with Bacon Bits and Chopped Onions sauteed in the bacon grease.  Maybe extra mushrooms sauteed in there as well for my favorite 3 year old who is currently obsessed with mushrooms.  
      • Spinach Casserole.  I grew up with this at every thanksgiving and Christmas and it is a defining dish to me for the holidays.  I was so excited that I could easily adapt this to a GAPS/Paleo way of eating.  It is delicious and I always make a double batch to have leftovers :-). 
        • Spinach Casserole {Recipe- GAPS and Paleo friendly}
          • Ingredients: 
            • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry 
            • 1/4 c chopped green onions 
            • 1 cup sour cream (best is to use homemade, and some day I will try it with strained homemade yogurt and see how it is as an alternative. Confession: we are using store bought sour cream this time.)
            • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt (I am using mountain rose herbs' seasoned salt mixture)
            • 1 c each cheddar and jack cheese (raw!)
            • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
            • 10-12 mushrooms, sliced
          • Instructions: 
            • Line greased casserole dish with mushrooms (Kind of like you are making a crust with all the sliced mushrooms).  
            • Mix remaining ingredients and spread in the dish (use your hands to spread it out and even it out). 
            • Cover and bake at 325 for 20 minutes, and then bake uncovered and additional 10 minutes.  
            • Try not to eat all of it at once.  You'll want leftovers.  It is a good idea to assemble the mixture ahead of time (it would easily keep a day or two or longer before cooking day). 

      Biscuits (Um...made with wheat flour :-o )
      • Passionate Homemaking (the spelt biscuits - I will use all fresh ground wheat berries.  And obviously, this is not GAPS or Paleo friendly, but it is a compromise we are making and in the past we have handled things like this well.  And we love these biscuits!)

      • I am making regular old mashed potatoes for my family that will be with us.  And we will eat them, too.  Again, not GAPS or Paleo friendly.  Organic potatoes, lots of pastured butter, good salt, and pepper.  
      • I will be baking some sweet potatoes with candied pecans on top.  I am not entirely sure what I will do, but I am planning at this point on putting peeled and chopped sweet potatoes in a casserole dish, toss with butter or ghee, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and ground cloves, and top with candied pecans.  Paleo friendly, not GAPS friendly.  For GAPS, I would do a squash bake with butternut squash and the same spices, also topped with pecans!  
      Disclaimer: I strongly believe in the way we strive to eat.  I have done endless (feeling) research and I have strong convictions for our family's health and future, and I am keeping this blog to share with others our journey and resources/recipes/ideas/thoughts to help people move towards better true health.  However, these cookies are a staple of Christmas celebrations since before I was born (I think) in our family.  This is the only time of year i make these.  And I am totally going to make them and enjoy them.  I want to try and figure out an adapted recipe, but I don't have the time for it this year.  Maybe next year sometime.  But I just have to say I am sorry to share this if you really can't or shouldn't be eating stuff like this.  But I am sharing because our family adores these cookies and I'm making them and I'm just trying to be honest here....

      Okay, after my little guilt-induced's the recipe...

      Russian Cookies {Recipe} 
      (from my grandmother on my dad's side Eileen Watson who received it from her mother in law)

      •  1 C butter
      •  ½ C sugar 
      •  ½ t. salt
      •  1 t. almond extract 
      •  2 C. flour
      •  1 – 2 C chopped nuts 
      •  Powdered sugar
      • Cream butter.  Add sugar, salt, and extract.  Mix well.   
      • Add flour and nuts.  Mix well.   
      • Shape into crescents on ungreased cookie sheet.   
      • Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove and dust with powdered sugar. 
      Notes: I'll make myself feel better by using pastured butter, organic, fair trade sugar, and soaked and dehydrated pecans.   HAHA.  Also, go to TOWN with the powdered sugar over the cookies.  Let it sit.  The cookies absorb the powdered sugar.  Yeesh.  Oh, and if you've never made cookies like this before, the dough will be fairly crumbly for a cookie dough.  Just go with it, mash it into a crescent shape and trust me.

      Sorry to end this post with such a refined flour, sugar laden recipe.  :-/ 

      Merry Christmas!! 

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