Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Recipe!

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Now that celebrations are winding down, and you may have a bit more time to yourself, perhaps it's time to pick up that new book you got for Christmas, sit in a rocking chair, and pull up a side table for a glass of rich, chocolatey... er, "malted chocolate beverage." After pulling out the movie "Heidi" the other night, and being inspired by stone houses in the Alps, goat cheese, and oatmeal, I started looking up other Swiss food ideas, and stumbled upon the well-known Ovaltine (R). After looking at the original ingredients, I thought, "Hey, I could make that!"

Ovaltine's traditional ingredients are milk (whey), eggs, malt, and, of course, cocoa. In fact the name was originally Ovomaltine; "ovo" referring to eggs, and "maltine" for the malt. The Swiss version is unsweetened, while the American version has added sugar. Since I don't drink cow's milk at this time, I used coconut milk for the milk, fresh eggs from our chickens, and cocoa. Malt is made by grinding sprouted grains into flour. My mom actually does make her own malt, but since I'm not so sure about eating raw grains due to their high levels of phytic acid (with negative implications for mineral absorption and tooth health), I thought I would use a small amount of maca, which has a malt-like flavor, instead. Maca is a root from South America, which is used for its positive impacts on hormone health (it's an adaptogen) and somewhat counteracting the effects of caffeine. You can read more about the benefits of maca here. So anyway... here is my recipe for a malted chocolate beverage. (All ingredients are recommended to be organic/free range, etc).

Malted Chocolate Beverage

16 oz non-dairy milk or certified raw milk (I used SO Delicious coconut milk, which is already diluted)
2 raw eggs
1 Tbsp organic cocoa
1 tsp maca powder (I used "Maca Magic" brand)
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional, for "American version")

First, separate the egg white from the yolks. In a blender, blend the coconut milk, egg whites, cocoa, maca, and maple syrup until smooth. At the end, add the egg yolks, and just pulse to blend. Egg yolks are healthier if they are not subject to oxidation via fast blending. Pour into a glass or two, and enjoy. Makes one large serving, or two small.

I tried it without the maple syrup first, and it's actually quite good with no sweetener added. It reminds me of eating a dark chocolate bar. With the maple syrup, it tastes just like I remember the flavor of Ovaltine to be.

A toast to your excellent health in 2011! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

109 and Doing Fine: Additional Wholesome Wisdom from Bernando Lapallo

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Hello! Hope your Christmas preparations have been and continue to be a source of joy!

However, if the stresses of the season are wearing you down, turn on some wonderful Classical Christmas music, find an old fashioned rocking chair, and cradle your cares away! On the blog today, I thought I'd take a break from the hustle and bustle, and focus on something new to help improve your health and vitality. In my constant quest to return to vibrant health, I ran across a person whose excellent health and clean living principles never ceases to amaze me...

I first learned about Bernando Lapallo through Paul Nison's "Raw Life Health Show" interview, about a year ago. I wrote a post about that interview here. Since that time, he has become quite popular! He has been interviewed over a number media venues: online radio shows, blogs, newspapers, and even television news stations. Though there are a number of centenarians living in the United States, Mr. Lapallo stands out above the rest with his excellent health and mental capability, and his zest to keep on living! I have even heard that he would like to open a restaurant, and is now trying to reach age 140!

What are some of his secrets? Well, for the full story, you can purchase his book "Age Less, Live More: Achieving Health and Vitality at 107 and Beyond." I have not yet purchased his book, but in the meantime, I have been online listening to interviews with him on YouTube and reading articles that divulge some of his secrets to health and longevity. In one, he shares a recipe for his morning superfood smoothie:

Bernando’s Superfood Smoothie

8-16 ounces fresh juice and water
½-1 cut up fruit (particularly blueberries)
2 Tbsp Dr. Schulze’s SuperFood Plus
1 tsp garlic paste (recipe below)
Dropperful of Dr. Schulze’s Echinacea Plus

Blend ingredients in a high speed blender, and drink in good health.

Bernando’s Garlic Paste

1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup garlic

Soak garlic overnight. The next morning, peel, and blend in blender (keep from exposure to air) with olive oil to make a paste. Keep in a tightly closed jar.

I've been eating this smoothie (okay, okay, minus the garlic paste so far) for about a week. It's quite filling and satisfying. I use freshly squeezed orange juice and also add a couple of dried stevia leaves to sweeten a bit. The Dr. Schulze's Superfood Plus is an excellent combination of ingredients that I think takes the place of a few vitamin and mineral supplements. Here's the (all organic/wild-crafted) ingredient list:

Herbal Ingredients: Spirulina Algae, Blue-Green Algae, Chlorella Broken-Cell Algae, Barley, Alfalfa & Wheat Grasses, Purple Dulse Seaweed, Beet Root, Spinach Leaf, Acerola Cherry, Rose Hips, Orange & Lemon Peels & Palm Fruit in a base of Dr. Schulze’s Proprietary Non-Fermentable Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Yeast

Just another way to get in those all important GREENS. :) There must be something to it... 109 and still doing fine...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great Resource for Finding Safe Personal Care Products

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As a follow-up to the last post, I thought you might be interested in a great resource for evaluating the safety of your personal care products. I use it all the time to find the least toxic shampoos, soap, hairspray, toothpaste... you name it. It's called "Skin Deep," the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database. But, like I said, it covers a lot more than just cosmetics. You can look up products by type of product or by the company name. If you go to the advanced search, you can even choose to have the search engine list only products that "do not include 'fragrance' as an ingredient" or are "made with some organically grown ingredients." It's great! Check it out:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Follies of Festive Fragrances

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Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas, it seems, without the scents of the season to fill the air!

Around this time of year, our senses are enlivened by fragraces profound and varied: festive perfumes, spicy potpourri, calming scented candles, Glade plug-ins, even Febreze or furniture polish in anticipation of company.

As nice as some of those fragrances may be, they do have a dark side. In fact, they, like the proverbial Grinch, may be working behind the scenes to steal away your gift of health, while you are in the midst of your celebrations. Beware of the word "fragrance" on any household or personal care product, and steer clear of most perfumes. "Fragrance" is a word used to disguise the use of a bouquet of cancer-causing chemicals. Added fragrances can also seriously disrupt the Endocrine system (your hormones: think, thyroid problems, for instance) and over-burden the liver. You really don't want estrogen-mimicking chemicals in your body-- and they WILL be absorbed through your skin!-- Too much estrogen has been linked to a multitude of serious diseases and health conditions. But that's a topic for another post.

According to the Environmental Working Group's report, "Not So Sexy," the average fragrant product tested contained 14 chemicals not listed elsewhere on the label. Many of these chemicals have never been tested for safety. Some of those chemicals actually accumulate in your tissues. The more you use of these products, the higher your body's toxic burden. This does not exactly tip the scale in your favor in your endeavor to live disease-free and healthy.

Things to Avoid?
  • Scented toxic household products
  • Perfumes
  • Scented lotions & potions, shampoos, hairsprays, etc, etc.
  • Scented candles
  • Potpourris with synthetic fragrance added
  • Air fresheners like Glade
  • Laundry detergent and dryer sheets
  • Anything else that has "fragrance" on the label, rather than plant extracts or oils
The good news? There are healthier alternatives. Be old fashioned. Be GREEN. Use fragrances that occur in nature! Did you know young women used to put a few drops of vanilla extract behind their ears as a perfume? Okay... well, we have improved on options since then!
  • Natural household products like the brand Seventh Generation at health food stores, or even some national chains like Target. If you're really ambitious (actually, it doesn't take that much ambition), make your own! You can use basic ingredients like white vinegar and baking soda, and add your own scents with natural essential oils.
  • Natural perfumes are not as easy to find locally, but they are available online. One good brand is Miessence, which is actually USDA certified organic, and uses traditional methods of perfumery. While synthetic perfumes have a history of only about a century, traditional perfumery has been in use for 4,000 years! Now, real perfume is not exactly inexpensive... So, if buying perfume ready-made is not in your price range, you can always try making it at home! It involves essential oils, some alcohol, and perhaps some jojoba oil. There are all kinds of how-to's online. Or... if you want a really lazy way... just use a tiny amount of essential oil, dabbed on your wrists or neck. Jasmine or ylang-ylang are nice floral scents that are typically used in perfumes. Voila! No more toxic perfume!
  • Natural personal care products are easy to find at health food stores too. Or again, some of the box stores like Target are starting to carry Burt's Bees! Always check for "fragrance" on the label though, just to be safe. Or... just look for the "fragrance-free" variety of whatever you buy. The fragrance-free versions are very popular at the health food store where I work.
  • Scented candles just aren't necessary. There are other ways to fill your home with delightful aromas. Check this out, from
Vanilla Spice Air Freshener: To make a vanilla spice air freshener for the holidays, place a cup of water, a cup of white vinegar, one tbsp. natural vanilla extract, one tsp. whole cloves, and one cinnamon stick in a small pot. Bring them to a boil, then turn down the heat, simmering all ingredients for two to three minutes. Allow the liquid to cool before straining out the cloves and cinnamon stick, and pouring into a spray bottle. These natural spray air fresheners should be sprayed into the air in the center of a room, avoiding walls and furniture, to prevent potential staining or other discoloration.
If you want the comforting glow of flickering candles, I recommend beeswax candles. They offer a nice subtle honey scent, and (BONUS) clean the air too! The negative ions they emit actually help remove toxins from the air! So, go support your local beekeeper, and buy a good supply of beeswax candles! You'll find candlemakers often mold candles in a variety of styles, from the traditional honey-comb look, to tapers, to tea lights and votives, to candles made in the shape of bee hives or pinecones! The color is neutral enough to complement any palette, and festively gilded to enhance your Christmas decor!
  • There are all kinds of resources online for making your own natural air fresheners, potpourris, naturally-scented cleaning products... etc etc. Just surf the web, and have fun!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Greetings From the "Little Cabin in the Wood"

Christmas is less than two weeks away!

Where did the time go? Goodness, it's been a while since I have done any blogging. Autumn seemed to come and go overnight, and we are now quite in the heart of winter, at least here in the north country! Tonight, the temperature is predicted to drop to -18... a good time to do things like listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" as I am now (We Minnesota Lutherans do get a kick out of it!), and take some leisurely steps toward Christmas preparations.

Things certainly have changed since the days when I would start decorating right after the Thanksgiving dishes were cleared! Cut-out sugar cookies are also a thing of the past, since I started focusing on more healthful eats. However, all is not lost! Traditional Christmas cookies are not requisite for holiday happiness; there are a lot of delicious alternatives to comfort and satisfy. Actually, one of my latest discoveries is cinnamon tea-- quite simple, and quite seasonal!

Cinnamon Tea
For a cup of tea, all you need is one cinnamon stick (preferably Ceylon, which is "true" cinnamon), broken into pieces. Cover with boiling water and steep for ten minutes. Strain out cinnamon sticks, and enjoy!

Cinnamon is great for keeping your blood sugar under control (just in case you DO plan to eat those sugar cookies!), and has been shown to improve brain function-- especially the memory. So, enjoy in good health! In fact, cinnamon tea is the preferred beverage of a gentleman I mentioned in an earlier post, who is now 109 years old, and still in excellent health. He drinks cinnamon tea every morning. Perhaps that's one of his secrets to never being sick a day in his life... It's worth trying! Try some instead of your morning coffee. --After all, "variety is the spice of life" and cinnamon is a good spice to start with!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cool as a Cucumber...

Creamy Cucumber-Mint Salad with Borage Flowers
...and getting cooler! As the nighttime temperatures have been dropping, we have been doing our best to make use of the last of the garden produce and fresh herbs. Off-season cucumbers from the grocery store just aren't the same! So... we have to savor them while we can. I love eating plain, salted cucumbers, as a rule, but once in a while it is nice to enjoy them in a new and dressed up venue, which will still enhance their delicate flavor. Here's a recipe to help you enjoy your last cucumbers of the season:

Creamy Cucumber-Mint Salad with Borage Flowers

1 lb cucumbers (about eight small cucumbers)
4 Tbsp chopped fresh mint + whole leaves for garnish
1 cup of diluted coconut milk or plain yogurt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt
a handful of fresh borage flowers

Scrub cucumbers and peel alternating strips, so that you have striped cucumbers. Thinly slice and put in a bowl. Add chopped mint, coconut milk or yogurt (or coconut milk yogurt, for that matter!), coriander, lemon juice, and salt, and toss until well-combined. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with whole mint leaves and borage flowers. Chill before serving. Serves 4.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Capture Fall... Make a Terrarium!

 As the leaves turn color, the wind blows colder, and the days grow shorter, it can make a person a little wistful that summer is over, and that we are slowly making our autumn transition into the cold winter ahead. At such a time, one may wish to hold onto anything green and alive before all is covered by a blanket of snow. Well, it is possible! ...with Terrariums!

A terrarium is a bit of nature captured in glass. It often has a cover, but not always. The cover makes a terrarium very easy to take care of, as it minimizes the need for the live plants within to be watered. All that is needed is an occasional light mist. The closed environment preserves the moisture and makes its own small ecosystem. All that is need is a glass container (bowl, candy jar, cheese ball platter, etc), some soil, some moss, perhaps some plants, flowering or not (ferns are especially traditional), and any other gem of nature one would wish to add to the mini garden or piece of nature: stones, pinecones, colored leaves, a piece of birchbark... the possibilies really are endless.

Terrariums were very popular during the Victorian Era, after the concept was discovered by Nathaniel Ward. Read the history here. The "Wardian Case" style of terrarium is named after him. His book on the subject, On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases is available to read online here. A very helpful, up-to-date book on the subject, with artistic ideas and good advice is The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature. I checked it out at our local library and found it to be both helpful and inspiring. "Apartment Therapy" has some inspirational pictures of terrariums here.

Terrariums don't have to be complicated at all. Here are a couple other resources:
How to Create a No-Fuss Garden: Terrariums give you low-maintenance beauty all year long
Grow a Mini-Garden

My Terrarium

Inside My Terrarium
My dad really "gets into" terrariums... Literally. A Greenhouse is merely a giant terrarium! Here is my dad working on our permanent greenhouse, which will help extend the growing season for those of us in the northern part of the country:

Dad working in the Greenhouse. Photo taken by my Mom.