I'm a Wellness Coach, and I blog here about health and wellness topics, cooking, and gardening. I'm also a Christian, art enthusiast, dog owner, and pastor's wife.

The following posts may contain affiliate links and advertisements that help support this blog. Everything written is my own opinion and is not influenced by being an affiliate.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Price Comparison Documents

How often do you see a sale price and wonder "is that a good deal?" I spent too much time shopping around for the best prices on the same items, so I've started price comparison sheets in Google Docs for online stores. Please keep in mind that prices fluctuate, so what I have listed may not be accurate when you view it.

Notes About the Comparison Sheets -- read first

Pantry Ingredients Price Comparison
Nut and Seed Price Comparison
Whole Grains Price Comparison

Want to see a certain product or store on the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Related Post
Healthier Eating on a Budget: The Big List

This post is linked to Buns in My Oven and Modern Pilgrim.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Roasted Garlic Powder and Grub Market Review

I received my first order from Grub Market (review is at the end of the post), and I ordered organic garlic heads with the intention of trying roasted garlic powder. My husband and I love garlic. It we were stuck with only one spice for the rest of our lives, garlic would be it. Fresh, roasted garlic powder? It sounded sublime, and I had to try it.

Peel the outer paper off the heads of garlic. Cut approximately ¼ inch off the top of each head to expose part of the cloves. Use a knife to dig out any green sprouts, as these can impart a bitter taste.

Put the heads in a baking dish, cut side up, and drizzle with olive oil. For 12 heads, I used around 2-3 tbsp oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned.

Those instructions are what worked for me. Some people recommend wrapping each head in foil instead of baking them in a dish together. Other people bake at 350 or 450 degrees for varying lengths of time, from 30 minutes to an hour. Any temperature in that range will work. You just want soft garlic that is slightly browned but not burnt.

After baking, gently separate the cloves and remove the skins. The soft flesh should easily come out of their paper.  If you don’t want to dry the garlic, it can be refrigerated or frozen and used like this. Spread on toast, mix into stews, or use wherever you would normally use minced garlic.

Garlic heads, fresh from the oven

To make powder: Puree the roasted garlic flesh in a food processor or blender. Spread the puree on a dehydrator sheet or on a parchment-lined pan. Place in a dehydrator or oven at 135 to 140 degrees F until completely dry. (This took a whole day for me.) Once dry, break into pieces and put it through a spice grinder or food processor until you have a powder. A mesh strainer or sifter is great to make sure you don’t have large pieces of garlic left. Store in a tightly sealed container.

We're not fancy around here. I use mismatched 
glass jars and masking tape labels for storage.

Verdict: Oh man, it smells and tastes much stronger than store-bought garlic! I’m glad I dehydrated it in a spare room, because the smell was potent for awhile. Removing the baked flesh from the skins took longer than I would have liked until I figured out what I was doing and found a steady rhythm. I also didn't puree the flesh before dehydrating. I just smooshed the cloves onto the dehydrator sheet. Of course, some cloves were flattened more than others, so some took much longer to dry. Pureeing them before drying would have fixed this problem, and the instructions say what I should have done instead of what I actually did.

I served my husband potatoes with garlic powder and salt as a blind taste test. The roasted garlic powder won with flying colors compared to the regular store-bought powder. Would I make roasted garlic powder again? Maybe. The taste was better, but it’s definitely more convenient just to buy the powder. I would probably do it again if I grew garlic and needed to preserve an abundance or if I wanted to give a thoughtful, homemade gift to a foodie. I'm glad I tried it at least once.

Grub Market review: Grub Market is a fairly new business (a little over a year old), and they deliver produce and natural pantry/home goods. They’re based in California and offer a wider range locally, but there are many items that they ship nationwide. The prices are awesome – seriously awesome – and shipping is free over $39 ($10 fee for less than $39).

I’m obviously pleased with the garlic from Grub Market. Aside from that, I got some pantry items, organic apples, and potatoes. I ordered during their big Cyber Monday sale, and shipping was slooooow from all of the orders they received. They’re across the country from me, and I knew I was taking a risk ordering fresh produce to be mailed to me. By the time I got my order, some of the apples were wrinkled already and a few of the potatoes were molded. Fortunately, customer service was amazing, and they are continuing to find better ways to get fresh produce to people. Their shipping policy has changed since that order. They now ship 3-day Fed-Ex (delivered on Thursdays and Fridays), so wrinkled apples should no longer be a problem.

Verdict: I’ve already placed and received my second order. No produce this time so I can’t comment on that, but shipping was much quicker. I intend to order from Grub Market again.

Have you tried roasted garlic powder or Grub Market? I'd love to hear your opinions of either.

This post is linked to The Chicken Chick's blog hop.

This post contains affiliate links. All of my opinions are my own and are not affected by being an affiliate.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Italian Dressing Belongs on More Than Just Salads

As a teen, I ate salads without dressing because the dressing grossed me out. Teenagers are weird.

My tastes have broadened since then. I’ll eat the occasional salad without dressing, but my favorite is now this Italian vinaigrette. It’s great on salads as well as on baked potatoes, in pasta salads, and as a bread dip. I've also used the dry mix in marinades for chicken and roasted vegetables.

Italian Vinaigrette

Dry Ingredients
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp celery salt
Up to 1 tbsp sugar (optional)

For best results, put the dried flakes (such as oregano and parsley) through a spice grinder. It’s not a necessary step, but they will mix better with the dried powders if you grind them. Add all dry ingredients to a jar and shake to combine.

To prepare dressing, whisk together 2/3 cup olive oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp water, and 2 tbsp of the dry mixture. Adding ½ tsp ground mustard to the dressing should keep the oil and vinegar from separating as much, but it will change the flavor a little. Let the mixture meld for at least 8 hours before use. The dressing should last for at least a few weeks without refrigeration.

The dry mix recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc. and stored in a sealed container in your pantry.

What's your favorite way to use Italian dressing?

Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
$5.44 for 32. oz at Vitacost
(affiliate link)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Factory Farms May Make the Flu Virus Worse

I don’t like scare tactics – the “do this or die!” messages about health. I think inducing fear leads to more chronic stress, which causes the opposite (poor health) of what the message is trying to do. So I wavered on whether or not to post this, but I think it’s important. If you’re a meat eater and you aren't already buying free range meats, consider this.

Influenza, or the flu virus, easily mutates and adapts. This is why a new vaccine is made every year. The flu virus circulating around right now is not the same one that was around last year. A top place where mutations occur is with poultry and pigs, particularly in factory farms where the animals are closely crowded together.

For example, scientists have traced the lineage of the 2009 swine flu epidemic to a strain that appeared in huge hog farms in 1998. Two strains combined together, exchanging and rearranging genetic material to form a potent flu virus that entered the human population. The earliest infections in people occurred in Mexico, next to a large hog farm.

Scientists have proposed the real possibility of avian (bird) flu and swine flu combining into a more potent and deadly variety. Studies of pigs on large farms that are next to poultry farms have already shown such combinations. Right now, it’s only infecting the pigs. But how much longer until it mutates to infect people?

What can we do about it? 

Waste less meat, for starters. Buy only as much as you’ll eat. Consume less meat by making it a side dish instead of the main course or having a few meatless meals. If fewer animals are needed to feed us, then there could be less crowding on the farms. Buy free-range animals, who aren’t in nearly such unhealthy conditions. Protect yourself by avoiding close contact with those who have flu symptoms and following the prevention steps of the CDC.

I hope you all stay well this winter!

Most of the above information is from the book Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Affiliate Link

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wild Edible: Sheep Sorrel

With easily recognized leaves that taste similar to lemons, sorrels are often the first wild edible that people learn. The temperatures at my home are falling below 85 degrees F as summer winds down, and leaves of Sheep Sorrel are starting to appear again.

Sheep Sorrel was originally the common name for Rumex acetosella, but nowadays, it may also refer to Rumex hastatulus. With similar shaped leaves, the two are often confused. Other common names are Sour Grass or Sour Dock. Rumex hastatulus is also called Heartwing Sorrel. Both have edible sour leaves, so the photos of this post may be of either variety.

Both types have pointy-tipped leaves with a pair of lobes pointing outward from the leaf base. The leaves are hairless and typically have long petioles. They are shimmery when viewed in the sun, as if someone sprinkled fine glitter on top. The leaf shapes have been compared to arrowheads, swords, and sheep heads – hence the name Sheep Sorrel. The narrow part is the head, and the lobes are the ears. The size and shape of the leaves will vary greatly based on growing conditions.

The photo below is of new leaves in the fall, which grow in a basal rosette close to the ground. The presence and distinction of the lobes may vary on young leaves.

Smaller, narrower leaves grow along the stem of the plant. Stem leaves grow alternate of each other, and often don't have as defined of lobes on the sides (shown below).

The tiny flowers on the stalk turn shades of red as they mature. If you're driving along and see a field speckled with red, it may be Sheep Sorrel, like in the photo below.

The flowering stems are ridged and often tinted red. Most sites say Sheep Sorrel flowers from March to November, but this will vary by location. I’m in zone 7 with summers up to 100 degrees F, and the plants die back in the mid-summer heat. I normally see flowers in late spring and mid to late fall. I can find leaves almost any time of year except the middle of summer, but they are larger and more prolific in spring and fall.

Both Rumex acetosella and Rumex hastatulus are typically grown as perennials. R. acetosella is native to Eurasia and the British Isles but is now common through much of the US. Its roots are more mat growing, and the flowering stems rarely get above 18 inches high. R. hastatulus is native to North America. It has a taproot and grows 2 feet tall or more. R. hastatulus has winged seeds (hence the name Heartwing Sorrel) while R. acetosella does not.

The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Over consumption (massive amounts) can cause abdominal cramping, stomach pain, or diarrhea. If your doctor has put you on a low oxalate diet, consumption of Sheep Sorrel is not recommended. When cooking sorrel, cast iron or aluminum cookware is not recommended, as the metal can cause a metallic taste by interacting with the oxalic acid of the leaves.

The roots can be dried, and then made into a tea or powder. Supposedly, this powder can be used to make noodles, but I haven’t found anyone who has tried this yet. The seeds are also edible, but they are too tiny to do much with.

So why consume Sheep Sorrel? Mainly, because I like the flavor, but it also has many purported health benefits.

What is it good for?

Sheep sorrel contains vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and a small amount of zinc. It is also an excellent antioxidant and contains compounds that may be effective against bacteria, viral infections, and intestinal worms.

Traditionally, the leaves have been used for inflammation, as a diuretic, and for help moving food through the digestive tract. A tea made from sorrel roots has been used to improve diarrhea and excessive menstrual bleeding. However, few scientific studies have been done to see if the plant is as effective as herbal practitioners have claimed over the years.

Rumex acetosella is a main ingredient in the cancer-fighting Essiac tea. The best decoctions use 25% of the root and 75% aerial parts, but products with the root are uncommon. The leaves can be harvested multiple times, but digging up the root kills the plant. It’s not profitable for farmers to harvest the roots, and the varieties that use the root are expensive because of this. (To buy with sorrel root, here’s the Regular Essiac Tea and the Extended Essiac Formula.)

Ways to Use the Leaves

1. Toss a few raw in a salad or smoothie
2. Steep the leaves in a tea
3. Make Sorrel Sauce for Seafood or Cooked Vegetables from Mother Earth News
4. Use recipes that call for garden sorrel or other sorrels, such as this Sorrel Soup from Leda Merideth

Have you tried Sheep Sorrel leaves? Do you like them?

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Medicine as Support -- One way to avoid sabotaging your healing process

From childhood onward, we've been told to “take this medicine to feel better” or that we “need to get doctored up with medicine in order to get well.” We’re taught early on that outside forces control our health.

There is nothing wrong with certain medicines, vitamins, supplements, and procedures, but how you talk about them feeds the belief that your body is dependent on external treatments for healing. From an early age, your subconscious is programmed to see your body as weak and unable to take care of itself.

The truth, though, is that your body is equipped with numerous self-repair mechanisms. It was made to heal itself, as long as the right support is provided. Many ancient cultures understood this. Herbs and medicines were taken to support specific organs or bodily functions. In contrast, our medicine-driven culture often refers to spices and supplements in correlation with specific diseases. Infographics tout benefits like “take cayenne pepper for arthritis relief” and “turmeric treats diabetes.” The focus is on external treatments of diseases rather than the internal support that the supplements could offer.

Your body is made to heal, and the best medicines and supplements support this healing process. What if we reprogrammed our subconscious into realizing the power of our own self-healing abilities? A few simple changes in wording could make a world of difference. When you give medicine to your child, or even to yourself, say something like “This is to help you heal yourself” or “This is to support your own self-repair.” Reiterate that the body is powerful.

As always, your comments are appreciated! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fixing Knee and Foot Pain Without Surgery

My feet hurt after only a few minutes of standing. I blamed the hard floors of my kitchen and bought a memory foam rug to stand on when cooking. Turns out, I just didn't know how to stand properly.

After standing and walking for a few decades, you would think we would intuitively know how to do them properly, but many of us don't.

I noticed recently that my knees turn inward when I stand. Because of this, the inner sides of my feet handle the bulk of my weight, so it's no wonder that most of my foot pain is around my arch. The pain is lessening now that I'm reminding myself to straighten my knees. However, like any exercised muscle, I'm having to work up to bearing weight on the outer sides of my feet. Changing how I stand all at once would be a painful shock to my feet.

Knees turned inward or feet turned out can contribute to knee, ankle, or foot pain. Other factors are how you walk, bend down, pick things up, or what shoes you wear. Research scientist Dr. Jolie Bookspan explains on his website how to fix the pain without surgery.

Please note, I'm not saying extra weight does not affect knee pain. Extra weight can certainly affect your joints, but other factors may be at play as well.

Do you have knee, ankle, or foot pain? When you stand or walk, do your knees turn inward or your feet turn out?

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