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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Baking with honey

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Last week, I mentioned that I use honey to replace regular white or brown sugar in all of my recipes. Since it’s difficult to find recipes for doing this, I thought I should elaborate on the why and how’s of doing this.

The primary reason that I don’t use white or brown sugar (which, by the way, is basically just white sugar with a bit of molasses added back in for flavor and color) is because they are highly processed, at very high temperatures and with the use of chemicals, that render them absolutely useless for nutrition of any kind. Although there are many foods that have only a very small nutritional benefit to them, sugar is one that I would actually consider to be on the negative end of the scale. It’s not just a 0 on the scale, but maybe a -5.

The reason is that sugar not only doesn’t offer any nutrients, but it also skyrockets blood sugar (which then drops significantly after, leaving you with a greater desire for sweets and carbs, and ultimately creating a vicious cycle of instable blood sugar levels), temporarily stuns the immune system so that it is not effective in fighting illness, uses our bodies precious nutrients and energy to digest and deal with the sugar (such as Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Chromium, Zinc and possibly others) and gets no new nutrients in return.

So why do I choose honey instead? Well, it has a lower glycemic index, thus messing with your blood sugar less, is not heavily processed, and in it’s raw (unpasteurized) state, actually contains many minerals and vitamins. Yes, it is still sugar. You cannot gorge yourself on honey just because it isn’t white sugar. Yes, it can still compromise your immune system, and if you are fighting an illness, I would not recommend it (use Stevia instead). However, given the option between the two for those times when we would like a sweet treat, I will take honey anyday!

I could go on, but I will get off my soapbox for now, and just give you the scoop on substituting honey for sugar in baking!

Basically, honey is slightly sweet than sugar, so you can use it at a slightly less than 1:1 ratio. When I am using a small amount, such as 1 Tbsp in a loaf of bread, I will just keep it 1:1. But if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I will reduce it to about 3/4 cup.

Since honey is partially water, being a liquid, you will also have to adjust the liquids in your recipe. I have read a few different ideas about how much you need to reduce the liquids by. Usually it is suggested to reduce the liquids by 1/4 to 1/2 cup per cup of honey used. I usually find it sufficient to reduce by about a 1/4 cup only, but it sometimes depends on the recipe and the texture that you are looking for (firm cookie dough vs runnier sweet bread batter).

For instance, if I am baking a loaf of pumpkin bread that calls for for 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of milk, I might use a little over a cup of honey (maybe up to 1 1/4 cups), and about 2/3 cup milk. It sometimes takes a bit of experimenting to perfect a recipe.

Also, it is wise to turn your oven down slightly when baking with honey (by around 25 degrees), because honey browns a bit faster than sugar. You just need to keep on eye on your baking the first times that you try it. Of course, if you also bake with alternative flours, as I do (I primarily use spelt flour, but also sometimes use barley, kamut and rice flours), then you need to be aware that baked goods made with these flours can take longer to fully bake through, but can still brown faster with the honey, so a longer time in a lower temperature oven is your best bet. I have come to learn that baking in an unconventional way is a bit of an art form!

That said, it also becomes easier the more you do it. I barely think about how to substitute anymore these days. It has become (almost) second nature. I only purchase honey, in gallon tubs, and keep my granulated sugar for guests only. We have come to love the taste of honey sweetened, whole grain baking!

Check out Tammy’s Recipes for some other great kitchen tips today!

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It’s upon us (cold and flu season, that is). On Tuesday night, I got run over by a nasty head cold and I am still slowly recovering. Since I’m nursing and don’t want to take medications or pass my cold to my kids, and I have an allergy to pseudoephedrine (the common decongestant in medications like Nyquil and NeoCitran- it makes my heart rate drop significantly), I felt pretty desperate to deal with it quickly.

Besides, it’s so difficult to function as a mama to young ones when your head is pounding, your nose running, and you’re struggling to breathe. So, I pulled out all my natural home remedies. We’re talking rummaging through my cupboards, my books, scouring google, and doing every natural thing I’ve ever known to do, even if it would help only minutely. Seriously, even minute improvements sounded exciting at that point!

Here’s what I did:

  • drank oodles of liquids
  • tons of fresh lemon juice (high in Vitamin C), and some fresh grapefruit juice this morning (again, Vitamin C)
  • nearly drowned myself in steaming hot tea- because it was soothing, and because the steam and vapors helped to unclog my nose and give my throbbing sinuses a bit of a break
  • Breathe Easy tea by Traditional Medicinals– same idea as above, but this tea is specifically made for the purpose of decongesting (I buy mine at the Walmart pharmacy, but most health food stores carry it, and some grocery stores in their natural section)
  • ate as much garlic as a married woman should ever eat. Actually, I’ve heard that it works best if you can just swallow pieces of raw garlic, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I put it in everything I ate, and even roasted an entire bulb of it to eat with goat’s cheese on toast (very yummy, I must say).
  • a hot shower (very hot and steaming) with drops of eucalyptus essential oil in it (I put the plug in and let the water pool at my feet)
  • hot compresses on my sinus and head to help relieve the sinus swelling
  • took a B vitamin complex, as well as an E, C, and A complex
  • 2 drops of Oil of Oregano under my tongue, 3-4 times a day
  • Trimedica Silva Solution throat lozenges (they actually have homeopathic colloidal silver in them)
  • today I made chicken noodle soup with a ton of veggies (especially leeks, onions, garlic) and homemade chicken broth

End result? It’s not gone, but I’m impressed with how much better I feel today than I did yesterday. I had some energy this morning, so I decided to make hay while the sun shone and ran around trying to put away laundry, tidy the bedrooms, clean the kitchen, make a real lunch and more bread and get prepared for dinner, etc. before I crashed. Now it’s the afternoon and I’m fading a bit, but such is life. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow. :)

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It grieves me to read the latest news regarding the antibiotic resistant forms of staph infection that are spreading. This morning I read two articles about concern over staph infections in public school students (read here and here).

The primary issue in this current situation is not as much the spread of the infection, but rather that it has become resistant to common forms of antibiotics. How does this happen? Why are we beginning to have these so-called “superbugs” on our hands?

The reason is the misuse and extreme overuse of antibiotics, such as penicillin, amoxicillin, methicillin, etc. Originally a life saving discovery, antibiotics have become the medical world’s cure-all, and are currently prescribed for nearly any minor infection that is diagnosed at the doctor’s office (if you don’t believe me, try to think back over the last few years and how many times either you, your husband, or your children visited the doctor for something minor and left the office with an antibiotic prescription in hand). This article from the Roanoke Times, Oct.17, 2007, gives greater insight into the issue (read the full article).

The results underscore the need for better prevention measures. That includes curbing the overuse of antibiotics and improving hand-washing and other hygiene procedures among hospital workers, said the CDC’s Dr. Scott Fridkin, a study co-author.

Some hospitals have drastically cut infections by first isolating new patients until they are screened for MRSA.

The bacteria don’t respond to penicillin-related antibiotics once commonly used to treat them, partly because of overuse. They can be treated with other drugs but health officials worry their overuse could cause the germ to become resistant to those, too.

If we (by we, I mean all of western civilization) continue to abuse antibiotics we will have far deadlier resistant bacteria straings and much greater ensuing tragedies to deal with. Not to mention that the continual use of antibiotics is ravaging our digestive system, leading to a host of other problems (but that’s another issue for another day). So what can we do about it?

1) Don’t just blindly accept antibiotics when prescribed to your family. Ask for the full name of the infection at hand, wait to fill the prescription, and first research and learn about what you are dealing with. Not everything is serious enough to warrant antibiotic use (in fact, many things are not).

2) Learn to use natural remedies for minor infections whenever possible. There are many natural substances out there with a great deal of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties (among these are garlic, oil of oregano, colloidal silver, just to name a few). A practical example from our home is that when our daughter was around 1- 1 1/2 years old, she had two Candida yeast infections in her diaper area. The first time she was prescribed an antibiotic ointment, which I applied once and never again (I had to soak her in an oatmeal bath for an hour afterwards to try to stop the stinging on her poor little bottom). So, we sought alternative methods. We applied a natural diaper cream and sprinkled probiotic (like acidophilus) powder on top of the cream. Orally, we gave her colloidal silver, grapefruit seed extract and put acidophilus powder in her food. Both times, in less than a week, the infection went away and has not returned now in over a year.

3) Consider whether your immune system may already be compromised from the previous use of antibiotics. If you have taken any rounds (especially if you’ve had more than one round) of antibiotics in the past five years, I would strongly suggest taking a high quality probiotic formula (the best ones need to be refrigerated and contain several different strains of probiotics- ask your local health food store or vitamin store for a recommendation).

4) Consider reading this excellent article from Dr. Mercola’s site about the use of antibiotics.

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Pancake morning!

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I should have said to make pancakes with maple syrup in my kitchen tip post! We’ve been on a restricted diet the past few weeks, trying to help my husband detox (he had a serious illness this spring and summer, but that’s a whole other story), so everyone was so excited this morning when I finally made pancakes again! And not just any pancakes, but a delicious recipe from Nourishing Traditions, where you soak the flour overnight in buttermilk or yogurt to start to break down the phytic acid and predigest the grains (this aids in the digestion of grains and the absorption of their nutrients). On a side note, if you’re interested, you can read this short article that tells you about the concept more in detail.

Anyways, after not having had them for awhile, and having some really amazing grade B, organic maple syrup on hand (one of the yummiest splurges ever- grade B has a much stronger maple flavor!), they were such a hit with my husband and daughter! I think she managed to put away 6 of them!

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Keeper of the Home has moved- click here to find my new blog site!

I don’t know about you, but I get excited about finding products that work to keep my family safe and healthy, protect the environment, and don’t break my budget! My kitchen tip this week (part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, hosted by Tammy’s Recipes) is the first of a series on natural household cleaners, and we’ll just start with the kitchen!

Why do cleaning supplies matter so much anyways? Well, just to name a few reasons:

-They’re full of toxic chemicals (why else would they be harmful to drink, breathe in the fumes of, touch, etc.?)

-They can have harmful effects on our bodies, anything from a mild rash, hives, breathing difficulties, headaches, to more moderate effects, such as severe burns, to long term effects, such as being carcinogenic (cancer-causing) or causing hormone disruption

– They can combine with other chemicals in another cleaning product to make even more dangerous fumes

– Some chemicals threaten water quality, fish and other wildlife

-Many are petroleum based, which further depletes our natural resources

-Most contain dyes and/or perfumes, both of which can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation

For all of these reasons, I choose to only use natural, non-toxic and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies in my home. Not only does this benefit our health (I know that my family isn’t getting a little helping of chemicals along with their chicken pot pie) and helps to sustain the earth, but it also helps to remove the risk of my young children ingesting poisonous substances, if they happen to be curious and clever enough to try to break into my cupboards.

So, what do I use? I’m glad you asked!

Vinegar- nothing beats vinegar for glass and mirrors. Just plain old white vinegar. I like to buy mine in huge containers (for a very low price) from Costco. I also use it for the rinse cycle in my dishwasher, and for soaking my baby’s cloth diapers.

Baking soda- I use baking soda to keep my fridge fresh, but also for scrubbing out my sink and the top of my stove, as well as silverware or platters that are beginning to look dull. I also discovered Tammy’s recipe for homemade scouring powder that works great, and costs so little to make!

Biokleen Cleaner and Degreaser- This is my champion of cleaners! I discovered it nearly two years ago, and am still in love! It is a highly concentrated cleaner (less wasteful packaging) and it is so very economical! It also really does degrease- when we moved into our current home, the blinds were filthy. I took them all down and washed them in the bathtub, using the concentrate (a bit more than usual, as recommended for heavier soiling). I was so surprised, but it really did do the trick!

Biokleen Automatic Dishwasher- Again, very concentrated, the best value I can find for a natural dishwasher soap, and it works. What more can I say?

Biokleen Dishwash Liquid- Now, I must admit, this is the only one that I am not thrilled with yet. The price and size are great, but I am not thrilled with the degreasing ability of this soap. I am looking to try a new brand when this one runs out. If you know of one, please let me know!

Biokleen Produce Wash- there are many good produce washes out there, but I just happen to be happy with my Biokleen brand at this moment. I have also used Nature Clean’s produce wash a lot, and thought it was great.

If you think that I must spend money hand over fist buying these kind of cleaning products, you’d be very surprised to know how little I actually spend on cleaning supplies, considering the quality of what I use. But I’ll save that for another post…

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