In the News

Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss! In honor of the man himself, today is National Read Across America Day and my daughter was beside herself with excitement because her kindergarten class had some very special activities planned. She got to bring a drink and snack, her favorite book and a stuffed animal to school, but she was most excited to be able to go dressed in her pajamas.

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In less positive news and yet another reason to limit refined or processed foods in our diet, it seems that the emulsifiers in many foods may be affecting our health and well being. Also, that article that went viral about school lunches around the world? Misleading at best. Although it is still a good reminder to eat a varied (and colorful) diet, both at home and when away.

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This is an article that I’ve been thinking about since I first read it. I hope that everyone thinks about how they want to live (and die). While it wasn’t easy to have less time than I wanted with my mom, I understand her need to make the choices she did. She died with as much dignity as her cancer offered, by choosing not to fight hopelessly. Short of the Death with Dignity Movement becoming more widespread, it behooves all of us to think about the unthinkable and make difficult decisions while we are able. Involve your family and discuss your reasoning behind your choices so everyone understands what your wishes are if necessary.

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Did you know that ancient languages didn’t have a word for blue?

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Turn that technology off! Or at least get it away from the bed.

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Cilantro

Here is another installation in our ongoing series of the health benefits of herbs and spices.

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Cilantro is an herb that inspires strong feelings in people, rarely do people have lukewarm feelings about cilantro. There is a genetic link to a cilantro aversion, where a percentage of the population likens the taste of cilantro to a mouthful of soap. My old roommates and I had a running debate on the merits of cilantro: I would put it on most things and they would painstakingly pick specks of it out of every dish. My mom loved cilantro. She would happily add handfuls of it to everything, and for good reason. Continue reading

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Cardamom health benefits

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

We are continuing our series on the health benefits of the spices you can find in your pantry.

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A primary ingredient in Garam Masala, cardamom is a tropical spice that is considered one of the most valuable spices in the world because of its therapeutic properties and decadent aroma. Cardamom is native to India and other South East Asian tropical forests and is known for its effects on a variety of issues including digestive problems, ulcers of the mouth, even as a mood lifter. It is part of the ginger family and has many similar benefits and grows as a rhizome just as ginger does. Cardamom has been incorporated into the healing lore of a number of South East Asian cultures and only now is modern medicine studying what has been known by these cultures for millennia.

Gastrointestinal and digestive issues

As a member of the ginger family, cardamom is beneficial for many of the same issues where ginger is helpful.  Nausea, gas and bloating, heartburn, decrease in appetite, and constipation are all digestive issues where cardamom may be helpful. Cardamom can be used to encourage the appetite aromatically. For other digestive problems, chew the seeds whole or ground, serve with food or as a tea. Continue reading

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Natural dog food

Recently, we have gotten a few questions about the dog food that my mom and dad fed their dog Zoe. She had a sensitive stomach and even the highest end dog food brands were not gentile on her digestion. The biggest problem with commercial dog food is that it in no way resembles the natural diet of dogs, and in most cases are made with inferior ingredients. A more natural diet for dogs would be high in protein and fats, with some carbohydrates, instead of the reverse formula that most dog foods are comprised of.

To that end, the food my parents made for Zoe was whole chicken boiled, with some vegetables, then the meat was removed and the rest was blended into a rough mush. When my dad would feed her, he would add some additional broth, some of the mush and top it with the chicken.

To make your own, put a whole chicken, a head of celery, some dulse, and a few other dog-friendly vegetables (no onions!) in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until everything is cooked through.

Once cooked and cooled, drain and reserve the broth then strip the meat from the bones and freeze that separately. Put all of the rest of the contents into a blender with a little of the broth to turn it into the gravy. You will need a high end blender to pulverize the bones; my parents used their trusty Vitamix.

When feeding your dog, give them an appropriate amount of the gravy and top with some of the chicken meat that was frozen.

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The Flavor Bible

I’ve mentioned before that one of the projects my mom worked on off and on was a cookbook. Her idea was to create a book that was less individual recipes and more a way to put together building blocks of ingredients so that novice cooks would feel more comfortable experimenting in the kitchen. She thought that if she could help people understand what flavors complimented each other they might become more adventurous when cooking and eating.

For Christmas I got a book that is the closest thing I’ve seen to my mom’s vision of an exhaustive list of ingredients and flavors that go well with each other. There isn’t a single recipe in the book, just lists of ingredients, cuisines, spices and seasonings that have been profiled and summarized to specific key aspects that will help every cook learn how to create their own dishes and showcase compatible flavors.

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is well worth checking out, especially if you want to improve your cooking chops.

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How cinnamon can help keep us healthy

Cinnamon is ubiquitous in any pantry, being a staple spice in baking. I use it in many of my mid-winter treats because its spicy taste warms from the inside. It is versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes with equal success and has a surprising number of health benefits. If it isn’t already frequently used in your cooking, here are a few suggestions for increasing your cinnamon consumption:

  • Add to coffee or chai tea
  • Goes great with many breakfast foods including oatmeal, waffles, pancakes
  • Can enhance many fruit dishes including apple dishes (sauce, baked, crisps), grilled fruit
  • A pinch of cinnamon can enhance beans, lentils, spaghetti sauce, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower, chili
  • Add cinnamon to nut butters or chocolate to use as dips or spreads Continue reading
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In the news

Here are a few articles that have caught my eye recently:

What’s Tylenol Doing to Our Minds

I try to be judicious about my use of over the counter medicines, including ones like Tylenol and Advil. Because of it’s pervasive availability and how helpful it can be, without any obvious side effects it has always seemed like it has all upside, and no downside to taking it. This is not so, according to this article.

600 Reasons Turmeric May Be the World’s Most Important Herb

We talk a lot about herbs that can improve health, and turmeric is one special spice, having been demonstrated to have hundreds of positive health benefits for those who include it in their diet.

New Year, Younger You: 20 Anti-aging Spices

If you’re thinking of adding spice to your cooking, here are the health benefits of a bunch of other spices that you already have in your pantry.

Why Fennel Should be Your New Year’s Herb

Fennel was one of my mom’s favorite herbs. We had bushes of it all over the garden. Not only is it great for butterflies, but she loved the anise flavor and would add all parts of the plant to her cooking. It has a wealth of health and digestive benefits and is worth adding to your diet, even in small amounts. I know licorice flavor is usually one that people either love or hate (I’m with my mom in the love it camp) but fennel is worth the flavor.

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Using herbs to keep your New Year’s resolutions

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Happy New Year! As we get back into the swing of our normal daily life now that the holidays are past, I wanted to discuss a favorite New Year topic, resolutions. For so many of us our New Year resolutions are made in good faith and fall by the wayside when life gets complicated. Last year my resolution was to make sure I am in more photos with my family because even though I am present for my kids all the time, there isn’t much photographic evidence. Aside from phone pics, the grand total of photos I am in last year is one.

It’s not easy to change engrained habits unless you are committed to go through some growing pains and that goes for something as simple as being photographed more, or something life changing, like taking responsibility for your health. Continue reading

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In the News

I’ve found a bunch of articles lately that have caught my interest, so here are a few more that I thought I’d pass along.

My mom was a huge proponent in having a happy gut, not just for weight loss, but for overall health and wellness. Apparently Western scientists are catching up.

I’ve seen numerous studies in the past few years on how children, and more specifically girls are going through puberty at a younger age. According to the latest, this is more common than previously thought and is thought to be affected by race, environmental exposure, and the pervasive use of endocrine disruptors in our society.

And if the previous post doesn’t want to make you keep your kids in a bubble, this one will.

Finally, because the last two articles are so depressing, here is a link to one of my new favorite dinners. It’s easy, tasty, and healthy. I paired it with my favorite guacamole recipe. Now if I could just convince my kids to eat it too…

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Holiday giving

I find the holidays are a difficult time to keep in balance, with the gluttony, rampant consumerism, and a To Do list a mile long. Our kids are old enough to really participate in the traditions and help perpetuate the values that we find important. One that I take great joy in fostering is the joy of creation with my kids, whether it is a quick drawing, a simple book, this year’s Christmas tree topper (a paper crown made by Rowan), or a homemade gift.

My mom really enjoyed the creation of gifts and especially loved creating and giving herbal gifts designed to heal and delight its recipient. Continue reading

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