Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cod With Roasted Garden Vegetables


It's the best part of summer when  everything is flourishing in the garden. The summer squash, zucchini and tomatoes are aplenty!  There's nothing quite like plucking fresh veggies and herbs from the garden to cook up a healthy meal to enjoy with a glass of wine. 

I typically cook on the grill during the summer months. In addition to enhancing the flavor of  food, it also keeps the house cool on hot evenings. However, last evening, we had some storms roll through, so I opted to cook indoors.




Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. codfish fillets
  • 1/3 cup gluten-free panko
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium summer squash
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • your favorite fresh herbs, chopped
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Directions:
  1. Thinly slice zucchini and summer squash; arrange on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  2. Slice onions into strips and arrange over squash slices.
  3. Arrange cherry tomatoes over vegetables.
  4. Drizzle all vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  5. Roast in a 375°F oven for 15 minutes.
  6. While vegetables are roasting, melt butter; stir in panko.  Add chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used rosemary and sage); sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder and stir.
  7. Remove roasted veggies from the oven. Move the veggies from the center of the pan so they're closer to the edges. Arrange cod fillets in the center of the pan; top with panko mixture.
  8. Return pan to oven and bake for 20 minutes.  
Enjoy!




Thursday, May 28, 2020

Gardening is a Learning Experience

healthy plants from a previous year

When we moved here six years ago, one of our goals was to raise our own organic food. However, full disclosure here--gardening has always been a challenging learning experience for us.  The more we do it, the more we learn every year. This year is no exception. We have a small greenhouse and typically start our seeds in there a few weeks before there is no danger of frost.  However, this year, the sun was much stronger than usual, and because of this, the plants started to fry in the greenhouse. We decided to plant them in our raised beds a week early, as we didn't think they would survive in the greenhouse much longer. Although it had been unusually warm the week before, this proved to be a mistake. After planting all but the tomatoes, we had several nights of below freezing temperatures and lost many of the plants, despite covering them overnight. We had to start more plants from seed in the greenhouse to make up for the plants we lost.

The cold weather vegetables were direct-sown in the garden a few weeks ago.  These included carrots, onions, celery, beets, kale, spinach and broccoli.

On May 15, we continued planting all the plants that were in the greenhouse, including the tomatoes.  In addition to the tomatoes, we planted zucchini, crooked neck (summer) squash, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant. In a few beds, we are growing cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, and rhubarb. We also direct-sowed green beans, which are growing rapidly. Since we also lost all of our Waltham (winter) squash plants with the frost, we decided to direct sow more seeds in the garden in two of the raised beds. The plants are already sprouting up through the soil.



The plants taken from the greenhouse are happy now that they are in the raised beds. They have room to spread and are really growing quickly. Before the vine plants get any larger, trellises must be installed in each bed. We found some Panacea A-Frame Plant Supports in a pack of 10 on Amazon. They should work well in the raised beds.  
Last year was also a learning experience for us, as we decided to switch from a conventional garden to raised beds.  Our decision to do this was based on our experience with gardens from previous years. It taught us that clay soil is not the best environment for healthy organic plants.  When we began the process, we purchased some raised garden bed kits online.  We dug down, put some pea stone in the bottom of each bed, along with a layer of burlap for drainage and weed control.  We then added a mixture of organic soil and compost to the beds before planting.   The plants appeared healthy for a time but did not produce well.  We quickly figured out it was because the beds were simply not deep enough.  We have remedied the situation this planting season, doubling and in some cases, even tripling the depth of each bed.  

When completed, this long bed will be a pumpkin patch.

We are continuing to install a few more raised beds, which will be home to pumpkins and  corn. 

Although gardening can be challenging at times, there is nothing more gratifying than plucking an array of fresh veggies from the garden to enjoy with dinner.  And, with some canning, freezing and dehydrating, home grown vegetables and fruit can be enjoyed throughout the year.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What I am doing to stay healthy right now:


I've had a few people on social media ask me what they can do  to strengthen their immune system and lessen their chances of developing viral infections.  So, in today's post, I thought I'd share what I am doing to stay healthy and calm right now.

1.  I  get plenty of rest.  According to physicians at Mayo Clinic, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep. So, the body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases.  For me,  I feel best when I get a full eight hours of sleep. I find the best way to do this is to try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day,.

2.  I eat healthy, nutrient dense foods.  These include leafy greens, such as spinach, and kale, which are packed with fiber and vitamins K and A.  Fruits, such as strawberries and blueberries, contain loads of vitamins A, C and potassium.  Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of the flavonoid quercetin, which transports zinc into cells to halt viral replication.  Onions and apples are also good sources of quercetin.


Regarding protein-rich foods, I eat organic eggs (from our farm), organic chicken and fish.  I also enjoy organic, grass fed beef.   Eggs, chicken and beef are also good sources of zinc.

Although it's our nature to crave carbs and sugar during stressful times, I know that filling up on these daily and not eating enough nutrient dense foods will not keep me healthy. However, I do like to snack on something crunchy, so I keep bags of Kale and Beet Chips in the pantry.  These satisfy my snack cravings while providing great nutrients.  (I can't wait to make my own once the gardens are in full swing.)


3.  I get plenty of exercise.  I think this really helps with stress, which can weaken the immune system.   I have put together a circuit training routine incorporating hand weights and cardio, using an elliptical exerciser. I do this 3-4 times a week.  I also have several Namaste yoga DVD's, which I really enjoy using at least 4 times a week. (They air  Namaste Yoga several times in the morning on Fit TV.)  Yoga really helps me stay calm and relaxed.



4.  I  optimize my Vitamin D levels.  According to the NIH, Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased susceptibility to infection. I prefer to get Vitamin D from the sun.  Weather permitting, I enjoy working out in the greenhouse and gardens, as well as going on walks with my husband and our dog. This provides additional exercise, and 20 minutes outside on a sunny day helps to optimize Vitamin D levels.  Being outdoors in the sunshine and fresh country air just feels great!

5  I take a few key supplements to help strengthen my immune system and protect against viral infections.  These include Sambucus Gummies with Vitamin C and ZincMullein,  and Licorice Root.  You can find more information about Sambucus and Mullein here.  I will be posting about Licorice Root, another great antiviral, in the near future.

Probiotics are also essential for a strong immune system,   Rather than taking a probiotic capsule, I get mine by drinking kombucha tea. In addition to  providing natural probiotics, kombucha tea also aids in natural detoxification.  It works by teeming with enzymes and bacterial acids. Gluconic acid, which is found in kombucha, bind to toxins to help expel them from the body.

Always remember to check with your healthcare practitioner before taking any herbal supplement or natural product.

6.  Last, but most importantly, I spend time in daily Bible reading and prayer.  I really believe God is bigger than any adversity we can face here on earth. Looking back on my own life, I know I don't have to worry at all because He has always had my back.  I also understand He often uses adversity for my good.  According to James 1:2-4," Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  I also believe when I pray, He  listens and answers.  John 14:14 assures me of this:  "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." 




Despite everything that is going on in the world right now, I feel at peace. This is because I absolutely believe what Romans 10:9-10 says: "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."  I know when my time has come, I am ready.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Antiviral Tea


Ingredients (per cup of water):

  • 5-6 fresh whole mullein leaves, medium-sized, per cup of water
  • 1 chamomile tea bag per cup 
  • 1-2 tsp. organic raw honey per cup of water
Directions:

I make this in a big stock pot and store it in mason jars in the refrigerator. 

Mullein combines well with chamomile.  Since chamomile is not currently in season, I am using chamomile tea bags.
  1. Wash mullein leaves and add to a large pot.  Cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn the burner to low and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Turn off the burner and let it cool a bit.  
  3. Important:  Always strain the mullein tea mixture through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.  There are small hairs on the leaves that can irritate the throat, so straining is essential.
  4. Pour into mason jars and store in the refrigerator up to one week.
  5. Heat one cup per time then add one chamomile tea bag.  Allow to steep, add honey and stir before drinking. If you like a sweet tea, add more honey or stevia.

Dosage:  My personal experience is 1 cup 3-4 a day for at least three days will definitely stop most viruses in their tracks.

Ingredient Breakdown:

Mullein

Common mullein, or Verbascum thapsus, pictured left, should look familiar to you. It is a medicinal plant readily found in roadsides, meadows and pasture lands. It is in season in much of the U.S right now, due to the warmer winter we've had.  However, right now, it is growing low to the ground without the flowering head.  It will look more like the second picture below. Its growth is widespread here right now, which is a good thing, given the Coronavirus outbreak. I harvested some myself yesterday.  I am careful to discard any brown leaves, as these are ineffective.

Note:  1st year plants that are not flowering are most potent.

Mullein contains various chemical constituents like saponins, iridoid and phenylethanoid glycosides, flavonoids, vitamin C and minerals.

A number of pharmacological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral activity have been associated with the mullein plant. With regard its antiviral activity, one test-tube study suggests that mullein extract is particularly effective against the influenza virus. It has been used to treat pulmonary problems, bronchitis, and spasmodic coughs, all symptoms which often accompany respiratory viruses.

Chamomile

Chamomile is one of the oldest, most widely used and well documented medicinal plants in the world and has been recommended for a variety of healing applications. is a flowering plant in the daisy (Asteraceae) family. Native to Europe and Western Asia, it's now found around the world. German chamomile is considered the more potent variety and the type most widely used for medicinal purposes. This is the type we grow on our farm.

Chamomile contains more than 120 chemical constituents, many of which are pharmacologically active.  They include, among many others, chamazulene,  an anti-inflammatory, and bisabolol an anti-microbial and apigenin, a phytonutrient that acts as a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral. 

Honey

The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial antiviral and antifungal power. They’re also thought to be the reason raw honey has shown immune-boosting benefits.It also works as a cough suppressant. 

You can also buy bulk mullein tea on Amazon, if you don't want to harvest it yourself.  Use one teaspoon per cup of water.

Of course, always check with your healthcare practitioner. before using any herbal supplement.  


Friday, February 28, 2020

Spinach Frittata Made Healthier With Culinary Herbs


I enjoy cooking with culinary herbs. They really enhance the flavor of foods.  As a holistic nutritionist and master herbalist, I also know the medicinal benefits of herbs and spices.  There are so many good ones, but today I would like to focus on two of my favorites, oregano and garlic.

Oregano

Oregano, or Origanum vulgare, is a popular herb whose name means "mountain joy" It is a small, perennial shrub with multi-branched stems covered with small oval leaves and tiny white flowers.

Oregano has amazing health benefits!  It contains rosmarinic acid and thymol. Both of these act as powerful antioxidants that have been closely linked to reducing oxidative stress in the body, thus boosting immunity.  Oregano has clear antibacterial properties, due to the presence of carvacrol, as well as the aforementioned  thymol.  Both compounds  can help defend the body against a wide range of bacteria. In the herbal world, it is considered a broad spectrum herbal antibiotic. Oregano is also loaded with fiber, a half-gram per teaspoon, so despite its small size, it can have a major impact on your digestive system health. Additionally, Oregano is a natural form of omega-3 fatty acids, the beneficial type of cholesterol that improves your heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to rebalance cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, thereby helping to reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke. Oregano also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids that help to alleviate inflammation-related diseases.

Garlic

Garlic, or  Allium sativum, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. It is closely related  e the onion, shallot, leek, and chive.  Garlic is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been a common seasoning worldwide.

Garlic grows from individual cloves broken off from a whole bulb. Each clove will multiply in the ground, forming a new bulb that consists of 5-10 cloves. 

Garlic has many health benefits.  It been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, lower blood pressure, thus protecting the heart. Significant evidence suggests that garlic's phytochemical content can play a role in the prevention of cancer and the slowing of its progression. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds found in plants that protect cells from damage that lead to cancer. Additionally, crushed garlic contains allicin, which has antimicrobial and antibiotic properties that help stop the growth of unwanted organisms, such as bacteria and fungi. 

The aromatic flavor of oregano and the pungent taste of garlic are a delicious combination  in Mediterranean cuisine This is one of my favorite recipes incorporating both.  It's the perfect healthy start to a great day!

Spinach Frittata

Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped oregano
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 
  2. Crush garlic with the side of a knife and let it rest for ten minutes, then mince. 
  3. Coarsely chop spinach and set aside. 
  4. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil to the bottom of a 9-inch cast iron skillet; add chopped onion and cook until translucent.
  5. Add garlic to skillet and continue cooking on low for 1 minute, then turn off burner.
  6. Whisk eggs in a small bowl and pour into skillet.
  7. Sprinkle the spinach, oregano. and feta cheese over the top.  
  8. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 15-18 minutes until top is slightly browned.

Makes two servings.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Best Antiviral Herbs


Two of the best antiviral herbs, sambucus and mullein show enormous effectiveness in treating and possibly preventing colds and flu, as well as many other viruses.

Sambucus

Sambucus nigra, otherwise know as black elderberry,  has been shown to be one of the best defenses against influenza.  It is a small, antioxidant-rich fruit common to Europe and North America that is still commonly consumed as a jam or wine..

A recent study by a group of Chemical and Biomlolecular Engineering researchers from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Engineering and IT has determined that  elderberry fruit can help the fight against influenza.  Compounds from elderberries can directly inhibit the virus's entry and replication in human cells, and can help strengthen a person's immune response to the virus. "What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus," said Dr Golnoosh Torabian, one of the researchers involved in the study.

When taken with Vitamin C and zinc, Sambucus is quite effective in reducing symptoms of the flu.  This combination will help strengthen the immune system.  Nature's Way Gummies contain Sambucus,  Vitamin C and zinc.  They have a pleasant taste suitable for children.

Mullein

Common mullein, or Verbascum thapsus, pictured left, should look familiar to you. It is a medicinal plant readily found in roadsides, meadows and pasture lands.

Mullein contains various chemical constituents like saponins, iridoid and phenylethanoid glycosides, flavonoids, vitamin C and minerals.

A number of pharmacological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral activity have been associated with the mullein plant. With regard its antiviral activity, one test-tube study suggests that mullein extract is particularly effective against the influenza virus. It has been used to treat pulmonary problems, inflammatory diseases, asthma, and spasmodic coughs, all symptoms which often accompany the flu.

I often harvest plants from our property for medicinal purposes. I use the leaves to make a tea to treat respiratory infections.  I also make a tincture from the leaves.  To make an ear oil to treat infections, I  combine the flowers with garlic and olive oil.  As a master herbalist, I enjoy these activities. However, for those that may not, mullein is readily available in tea, tincture and capsule form.

Both sambucus and mullein are great to have on hand during cold and flu season. They can be purchased online by clicking the corresponding links.

Of course, always check with your healthcare practitioner. before taking any herbal supplement.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Natural Options for IBS-C


IBS-C can really affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it.  The symptoms of IBS-C include abdominal pain and discomfort, along with changes in bowel function. Bloating and/or gas may also be present. Changes in bowel function may include straining, infrequent stools, hard or lumpy stools, and/or a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.

Over time, the chronic constipation associated with IBS-C can cause diverticulosis, which can worsen constipation. Unfortunately, oftentimes the medications prescribed for chronic constipation either don't work well or have bothersome side effects. However, there are several natural options to treat the constipation associated with these conditions that are very effective. 

1.  Dandelion Root - Dandelion Root works by stimulating the liver to produce bile, which helps to soften the stool for easier passage. Dandelion root can be purchased in capsule (powder) form.  Nature's Way makes a great product, which can be purchased on Amazon. It  is recommended in daily dosages of 1-4 GM and is most beneficial taken in divided doses during the day and at bedtime. However, it is not recommended for those with gallstones.



2.  Digestic - Digestic is a non-laxative, organic, herbal blend of Papaya, Wormwood, Fennel, Cardamom, and Aloe.  It is available  in capsule form.  Although it is a bit on the pricey side, it  is extremely effective for relieving chronic  constipation associated with IBS-C and diverticulosis. Dosage is  2 and up to 6 capsules daily, depending on the severity of symptoms.

3.  Senna Combination - I discovered this combination of herbs in one of my herbal textbooks.  It consists of senna leaves, fennel seed, ginger rhizome and catnip leaves.  While senna can cause cramping or gripping, the catnip in this formula helps to lessen this.  When taken at bedtime, the catnip also helps promote a restful sleep.  The only company I know of that produces this herbal combination is Caring Sunshine.  It is available in capsule form and is fantastic for relieving constipation.

4.  Kombucha Tea - I prefer to get probiotics from food or drinks, rather than from capsules, and I am a proponent of kombucha tea.  However,  some just don't taste good.  However, one that does is Synergy Enlightened Gingerberry Kombucha TeaIn addition to  providing natural probiotics, which help prevent constipation, kombucha tea also aids in natural detoxification.  It works by teeming with enzymes and bacterial acids. Gluconic acid, which is found in kombucha, as well as in fruits and vegetables, may bind to toxins to help expel them from the body.

5.  Organic Psyllium Husk - This is really good stool softener.  It works by increasing the bulk in your stool, an effect that helps to cause movement of the intestines. It also works by increasing the amount of water in the stool, making the stool softer and easier to pass. However, one word of caution--don't use too much (a little goes a long way) and drink plenty of water while taking this.  NOW Organic Psyllium Husk is a good brand.

Always remember to check with your healthcare practitioner before taking any herbal supplement or natural product.