Friday, October 30, 2009

Homemade "Healthy" MOUNDS BARS

I found this recipe on another site that I love ( They are "healthy" mounds bars made out of all-natural ingredients, including coconut oil! Coconut oil has been shown to be a great immune booster, not to mention the evidence that those who live in tropical climates and have a diet that is high in coconut oil are healthier, have less heart disease, cancer, colon cancer, etc.

The great thing is that you won't really even feel guilty when you eat them!! YUM!!! Here's a not-so-good picture of the smaller ones I just made for our "Pastor's Wives Retreat" that I am going to Seattle for with Kristyn Brown and Karla West tonight (mostly this "retreat" will involve eating, shopping, movies, etc) :GetAttachment.aspx.jpg

"Mounds" Candy Bars
1 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp almond extract (i didn't have this and didn't use it)
almonds (about 36), left whole OR chopped

1. Melt coconut oil and honey over low heat until just melted. Whisk to combine. Add the almond extract and coconut flakes.

2. Now take out muffin tins (I use the small ones) - in each compartment, place 2 or 3 almonds or divide the chopped almonds. Then divide the coconut mixture over each compartment, making sure you get an even mixture of coconut flakes and coconut oil. Place in freezer on a flat surface and freeze until hard (about 30 minutes).

3/4 cup cocoa powder (not dutch cocoa)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp Vanilla extract

3. Combine these ingredients in a glass 2 cup measuring glass and place in a pot of simmering water. Heat until everything is just melted and remove from heat. Either wisk briskly or use a hand held blender to combine well.

4. Take out the frozen coconut flake mixture and divide your chocolate mixture over each compartment.

5. Freeze until hard.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

A natural version of Tamiflu??

OKay, so I know most of us are dealing with the H1N1 flu going rampant in our communities. We made the decision not to vaccinate for that (or the regular flu, for that matter) and so we're keeping healthy in other ways - you can read my other blog (search for it) on natural immune boosters.

BUT, yesterday I came across some information on a natural alternative if you DO start feeling the symptoms of the flu. Its called ELDERBERRY SYRUP....its all-natural and therefore is free of the nasty side effects of other anti-virals like Tamiflu. I've been looking into the safety of taking while pregnant and some sources are saying "yes" others say "ask your healthcare provider" if I need to take it I will call and ask first. Here are some studies on the effectiveness of Elderberry Syrup which were pretty impressive.....

Try elderberry syrup to fight the flu, more

You can use it preventatively or when you actually feel the flu coming on - just like Tamiflu, it says to start using it regularly within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

I bought some yesterday and I'll let you know how it works (although hopefully we won't have to use it!!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tuscan Zuppa

If you love the Olive Garden, you will love this soup. I totally stole this from someone at our church - Jan Cichowski (actually she gave it to me!). And then I found pictures online with the same recipe!!! So, its not authentic nor are the pictures of me preparing it. BUT, you will LOVE this soup - its super yummy. I tend to leave out the red pepper flakes so that my kids will actually eat this!

You'll see it calls for bacon...I am careful to always purchase nitrite-free bacon. Why? Nitrites are found in lunch meats and most all processed meats, and they are shown to cause stomach/pancreatic and prostate cancer - or at least increase the liklihood of those. To read more about that, click HERE. I would also just prefer to have my food, and especially the meat I use, be un-messed-with, ya know?! SO, bring on the bacon and sausage (nitrite-free, of course) and ENJOY!!!


  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1½ tsp crushed red peppers
  • 1 large diced white onion
  • 4 Tbsp bacon pieces
  • 2 tsp garlic puree
  • 10 cups water
  • 5 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
  • ¼ of a bunch of kale
  1. Sauté Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.
  2. In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions and garlic for approxiamtly 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.
  3. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling.
  4. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
  5. Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated.
  6. Stir in the sausage.
  7. Add kale just before serving. Delicious!

Buon appetito!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Food intolerances and a great recipe for Gluten-Free Bread for the BREAD MACHINE

About a year and a half ago, I had suspicions that our son Levi may have a food allergy/intolerance of some sort. He had sandpapery-feeling skin, especially on his torso, very large tonsils, daily complaints of stomachaches and irregular bowel problems. On the recommendation of a friend, I took him to a local Naturopath Doctor. With a background as an RN, I was a little hesitant with the whole naturopath thing, but I was pleasantly surprised!
The first thing I noticed was that they spent a LOT of time with us - as in almost an HOUR total! I was impressed. I took Julia in as well as I figured if I was getting one of them tested I should just do both (and me, too, while they were at it!) She listened, asked questions, took notes and addressed my concerns.

Then, a simple finger prick (which both of my kids tolerated without any tears or cries of "ouch") was enough to squeeze a little blood on 3 different strips. Those were sent in to test both the IgE and IgG levels, or antibodies. They tested for 96 different foods using the ELISA testing - you can read more about the IgE and IgG antibody testing HERE. I should mention that IgE antibodies indicate IMMEDIATE, more serious reactions, and none of us had any of those. IgG antibodies, on the other hand, are "delayed reactions" - think along the lines of something your body doesn't tolerate well and the more you eat of it the more it stresses your body out. It wears down your immune system over time and can likely cause chronic health problems.

A week or two later, we went for a followup appointment to discuss the results....the 3 of us were free from any IgE reactions. But, as for IgG reactions, what we found was that there was some wheat/gluten intolerance in Levi (on the lower side, but we had cut out wheat/gluten for about a month or two prior to that) and that BOTH of my kids had HIGH-level chicken egg reactions, to both the egg yolk and egg white. Very interesting. I was sad, but not surprised to see my IgG levels for all dairy products come up in the mild/high levels, along with a low/mild reaction to chicken eggs. Due to my myriad of sinus problems growing up and into adulthood, the Dr had suspected before I got my results back that dairy was likely the issue.

After finding these results out, we went ahead and continued cutting out wheat/gluten for a while, but also eliminated the use of chicken eggs. Because the protein is different, they suggested using duck eggs in baking, which I have incorporated without too much difficulty due to the fact we have friends from church who have an over-abundance of duck eggs!!!

Gradually, we have added wheat/gluten back into our diet - I have found that Levi seems to be okay as long as he doesn't have TOO we just try to really limit it at home and so if he has it other places it doesn't seem to bother him too much.

After I cut out dairy, my results were amazing - no more gastrointestinal issues, no more post-nasal drip, and I have been FREE of sinus infections for almost 2 years (prior to that I would get them at least 3 times a year). AMAZING! After eliminating it for a while, I do find that I can tolerate a moderate amount of yogurt and cheese without too much problem, which is good, because I REALLY like cheese!

With these changes along with eating healthy, whole, natural foods when at all possible, I have also noticed that we don't get sick very often - and if we do, our immune systems are a bit stronger so the symptoms are more mild and we fight it off quicker!

Whew, so, after all of that, I have a great link to a Gluten-Free Bread that you can make in your bread machine! YUM! I typically change the following:
- use 1/2 cup millet flour instead of 1/4 millet and 1/4 garbanzo bean flour
- use coconut oil instead of canola oil


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quinoa - the almost-perfect food!

Quinoa_Grain_250.jpgQUINOA!!! Have you ever heard of it? Its pronounced KEEN-WAH and is an "ancient" grain that was used by the Incas...its actually the seed of a leafy plant, a plant related to spinach. Quinoa is unique because you can use it like a grain, grind it into flour and use it in baking. It has a nutty flavor and is a source of ALL essential amino acids. Its protein content is 12-18% and it is wheat and gluten-free. This is a 100% whole grain and I often use it like I would rice. Quinoa is covered with saponins - saponins are a "plant's natural immune system, a natural antibiotic that protects the plant against harmful microbes and fungus (and insects)". I found this statement and some other great info about quinoa HERE.

When I cook it like rice, I soak it overnight...this removes the saponins from the outside of it. If you cannnot soak it overnight, you can get by with soaking it for a half hour or so. Then you want to rinse it well (a strainer with VERY small holes will be needed! I've used a gravy strainer with best results).

THEN, I put it in a pan with twice the amount of liquid as quinoa (so 1 cup quinoa = 2 cups liquid). I typically use chicken broth to give it an even yummier taste! Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let it sit with the cover on for about 5 minutes, then fluff with fork! YUM!!! You can eat it plain as a side dish or in any recipe that calls for couscous or rice!!!

Here's one of our favorite quinoa recipes - its very yummy and I found it HERE.

Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa

1 cup quinoa (soaked overnight in water, than drained and rinsed in a strainer. If you don’t soak your grains still rinse to remove a bitter substance from the grain)
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2-3/4 cup of white wine (amount depending on your taste and wine used)
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon of salt
4-6 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 celery, sliced
1 onion, minced
2 chicken breasts or thighs
3 Tablespoons of butter (opt, for added richness and flavor)

Mushrooms - optional

Throw all the ingredients in your crockpot, cook on high, 4 hours or on low, 8. Shred the chicken when done, and stir into the stew and you are done! You can easily adapt by using different herbs, more meat/less meat, etc.

When you cook QUINOA, it will look like this (little spirals come loose from the grain):


We've also enjoyed Quinoa Pasta from HERE. You can find quinoa products at your local health food store or at online stores such as Azure Standard.

So my advice - try it, you might like it!!! (actually, you probably will!)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Farm-raised or wild fish?

Next, we're moving on to the topic of fish. At our house, we try to have it once a week - and its usually salmon. Our kids LOVE salmon! And thankfully, living in the northwest on Puget Sound, its easy to find really great salmon. Friends we know that have gotten salmon have given us some and we usually put a bunch in the freezer to enjoy at later times!
search.jpgFarm-raised fish are grown in controlled environments or "fish farms". They are usually housed with LOTS (thousands) of other fish and are fed fish pellets (made up of sardines/anchovies, and other small fish). They are also most often treated with antibiotics to treat/prevent the multitude of diseases that can be present when that many fish are in a small area together. Another problem with this is that if the "fish pen" is in open water, it contaminates and causes problems in the surrounding area and the fish/plants that are wild in that area. The meat of farmed fish are also often paler in color and so are often given chemical coloring (canthaxanthin and astaxanthin) to turn their flesh pink and make them more appealing to the eye. They also tend to have higher PCB and dioxin levels and lower Omega 3 concentrations.
sockeye-salmon_image.html.jpgWild-caught fish, on the other hand, eat food from their natural habitat, turning their meat a natural pink color. They also tend to be leaner than their farm-raised variety as they are allowed to swim wherever they want. They usually have lower PCB and mercury levels and are higher Omega 3 (heart healthy essential fatty acids). Basically, more "good" stuff and less "bad" stuff in them!
***Also, I would recommend NEVER buying farm-raised fish from anywhere in China...I've read some disturbing things about them, some of them are summarized HERE. (Read labels - it will tell you where its from - I've mostly seen frozen tilapia and shrimp from China)
Fish can be a great addition to your family's food is heart and brain-healthy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why eat grass-fed beef???

(first of all, for all the family/friends wondering, I WILL be posting pics/update on Julia's little 3rd Birthday Princess Tea Party from yesterday VERY SOON!)

Meat. I really like meat - especially beef, chicken and fish. Over the last 2 years as I've been on my "healthy, natural, whole foods learning journey", I have learned a bunch about why we should eat grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and wild-caught (as opposed to farm-raised) fish.

Today I will focus on BEEF.

I am currently reading a great book by Nina Planck called "Real Food For Mother and Baby". It talks about pre-conception food, eating while pregnant and breastfeeding, along with the best "first foods" for babies.


Its an excellent book, and I've also read her other book which is intended for all readers called "Real Food - What to Eat and Why"

ref=dp_image_0.jpgIf you are aiming to eat healthy, natural foods, I HIGHLY recommend reading this book!!!! You should be able to find it at your local library. It gives you more of the science and reason behind eating those sorts of food. AND it will take away some of the guilt from eating things like bacon, butter, etc.

ANYWAY, back to the topic at hand - Grass-fed Beef.

Here are a few benefits of Grass-Fed Beef ("Real Beef" as she calls it, as compared to industrial beef):

* it contains more omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta caroteen and CLA, an anticancer fat

* less likely to carry a dangerous form of E.coli

* no hormones, no antibiotics (growth hormones are often used in beef cattle to speed up their weight gain....antibiotics are used in industrial beef to prevent infections/illness due to overcrowding - which in turn can likely cause drug-resistant bacteria)

* assurance they are eating their "natural diet" - cows are herbivores and due to 4 stomachs that contain necessary bacteria, they can make "green things" like grass, etc into meat and milk.

* virtually no incidence of "Mad Cow disease" - which resulted from cows being fed infected sheep and cattle to other cattle - (ewwww.....aren't they supposed to be herbivores?!)

--> These are just a few highlights - in her book she goes in to greater detail about "real meat" and the reasons why it is better...

Here are some reasons in addition to those above why I like grass-fed beef better:

* tastes better!

* healthier!

* I get to support a local farmer or family whom I know and trust to provide food for my family!

So here's to eating Beef! (By the way, I usually purchase a 1/4 cow in fall or Spring when farmers butcher. Sometimes, if I have a lot left in my freezer from the last cow I split this 1/4 cow with another family.)

A yummy recipe for

SPAGHETTI SAUCE (from one of my often-visited blogs called "Passionate Homemaking":

1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 Tbls. olive oil
1-2 lbs ground beef (pork roast, italian sausage or whatever!)
2 large cans diced tomatoes (28 oz each)
1 large can tomato sauce (28 oz) - you can add more of this if you like a more "liquidy" sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup red wine, optional (you can also use dry white wine, but I like red best)

Saute onions, pepper, garlic, parsley and celery in oil until soft. Add meat and cook until pink is gone. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally. Serves 8.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Natural Immune Boosters!

Well, its that time of year when the flu and viruses start flying around! I thought I'd share a bit of what I've learned about natural ways to boost your immune system. It must be working, because I really haven't been sick at while being pregnant (other than the nasty all-day morning sickness I had until 18 wks!)....and Levi just got over what I'm guessing was the flu or swine flu.

Here are some things I use:

1) Coconut Oil - to read more about the benefits of coconut oil, go to (this link specifically talks about viruses and how coconut oil is useful against them). The site has a lot of other info about coconut oil too!

From his extensive research of the medical literature, Dr. Fife has come up with a slew of health benefits associated with coconut oil. Some of them are:

.. Reduces risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
.. Reduces risk of cancer and other degenerative conditions
.. Helps prevent bacterial, viral and fungal (including yeast) infections
.. Supports immune system function
.. Helps control diabetes
.. Provides an immediate source of energy
.. Supports healthy metabolic function
.. Promotes weight loss
.. Supplies fewer calories than other fats
.. Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
.. Helps prevent osteoporosis
.. Helps keep skin soft and smooth

- I sometimes will take just a 'ole big spoonful of it!
- It is the ONLY oil I use to do high-heat cooking/sauteing, as it does not oxidize at high temps!
- It is AMAZING to use to make homemade popcorn! YUM!! I also stir a little into my oatmeal in the mornings, along with some rapadura and raisins!
- Honestly, it has really seemed to give me more energy and I haven't really been sick at all since using it regularly!

2) Cod liver oil
Another great source to boost immune function. I have taken both the capsules and straight up liquid stuff (which I usually mix into yogurt for the kids and they don't even know its in there!) A study found that children taking a half teaspoon of flax oil a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections and fewer days of being absent from school. The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. (Perhaps this is why grandmothers used to insist on a daily dose of unpalatable cod liver oil.) Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection. When taking essential fatty acid supplements, such as flax or fish oils, take additional vitamin E, which acts together with essential fatty acids to boost the immune system. One way to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is to add one to three teaspoons of flax oil to a fruit and yogurt smoothies.

Rather than me spewing a bunch of other facts and figures, here are a few reputed links to check out:

3) Natural Multivitamins
I use "natural" food-based ones from a health food store as most others are synthetic vitamins (man-made). I would rather get the good natural stuff. Currently, I'm using the SuperNutrition Prenatal's - (

4) Garlic - this flavorful member of the onion family is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production. The immune-boosting properties of garlic seem to be due to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin and sulfides. Garlic can also act as an antioxidant that reduces the build-up of free radicals in the bloodstream. Garlic may protect against cancer, though the evidence is controversial. Cultures with a garlic-rich diet have a lower incidence of intestinal cancer. Garlic may also play a part in getting rid of potential carcinogens and other toxic substances. It is also a heart-friendly food since it keeps platelets from sticking together and clogging tiny blood vessels. (

These are a few natural immune boosters that I use! Seem to be working well!!! I prefer to forego the Flu Shot and for sure the H1N1 (swine flu) shot, so i plan to do the above things, eat healthy, get enough rest and wash my hands a lot!!!

Here's to a healthy "flu season" for you and your family too!