Aug 24, 2015

Natural Remedy for Ear Aches

My children have never had ear infections (that I can think of).  That all changed Friday night when my 5-year old started to complain of an ear ache while we were at the pool.  It seems that this time of year swimmers ear is common at our pool.  Not sure why.

My husband took her home after I'd given him instructions to put peroxide in her ear first.  We usually use alcohol to dry up the water after swimming but she has scabs inside her ear and wouldn't let us use alcohol because it burns.  I've also heard of white vinegar used in the ears after swimming to combat swimmers ear.

For ear aches (or any other minor aches) we use lavender essential oil.  My husband rubbed lavender on the outside and around the ear.  I also recommended a warm compress.  He heated a rice bag until warm and applied it to her ear.  

These things brought some comfort but by the time I got home from the pool with the boys she was crying from pain.

After texting another naturally minded momma for ideas, the remedy that came back sounded so strange: steam an onion.

I was desperate for my baby to have relief so I was willing to try anything.  Even crazy home remedies.

How to Juice An Onion
In a small saucepan with a lid, over low heat I warmed a couple tablespoons of olive oil then added half an onion, cut side in the olive oil.  I steamed the onion for several minutes until it seemed the onion was soft through.  Not completely falling-apart-mushy, just soft.

When the onion was cool to the touch (so as not to burn myself when I picked it up with bare hands), I covered the onion with an old rag.

The next part of this story is not an exaggeration.

My daughter was crying, sobbing with tears running down her face.  I placed the warm onion on her ear and within a minute she had fallen asleep.  It was crazy.  Bizarre.  If I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes, I might not have believed it.  [That is precisely what my remedy-momma-friend told me to expect.]

I walked to the next room and asked my 11 year old son if he had heard the crying.  Of course he did. I told him that Sister was now asleep.  He couldn't believe it either.  She slept through the night.

The next day she didn't complain at all about her ear hurting.

That night was a different story.  She was up several times complaining of ear ache.  I tried lavender oil which brought some relief but she was still in pain.  I had thrown away the onion from the previous night (and didn't want to steam another onion at 2am).  In my arsenal however, I had the onion juice in olive oil in a syringe.  I dropped a few drops in her ears (both ears hurt the second night) and almost instantly she was back asleep again.  Crazy I tell you!  I can't remember if I had to do that 3 or 4 times --things are foggy in the night.  With confidence I can say that each time after applying the onion oil she was asleep within 30 seconds.

The next morning, she told us that she had been cured by "magical onions."

I read similar story here (be sure to read the comments for other testimonies).

What do you think?  Is this a coincidence?  Will you try steamed onions the next time?

-Julie
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor but I play one at home and practice non-toxic remedies on my family.  

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Aug 23, 2015

Okra Season!

Last week I pickled some okra from Rattle's Garden.  Actually, I lacto-fermented them to boost their nutritional value.  I followed a recipe similar to my pickle recipe by making a simple brine and adding starter juice from Bubbies pickles or sauerkraut.  I used horseradish leaves again for tannins to help keep the okra crispy.  The dill from my garden is long gone so I used dried dill.  Not wanting to make another trip to the grocery, I re-used (fermented again?) garlic from a previous batch of pickles.  They still had potency!

As you can see from the picture above, I weighted the okra with a smaller jar, filled with water.  Otherwise the okra was floating out of the brine.  It needs to stay submerged.  

End result?  I liked them.  My 2.5 year old liked them.  The other members of my family were not fans.  Not everybody likes the okra.  

However, if you like okra be sure to try out these recipes that we've posted on the blog before -

Ginger Peach Gumbo - use purple hull peas for bonus!

-Julie

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Jun 5, 2015

Easy Pickle Making (Canning Not Required)

If you like pickles, go to the farmers market and grab some cucumbers.  Make this recipe ASAP.  
I made them by lacto-fermentation, which means they are power packed with probiotics.  It's a rather easy method as you will see below.

4 Reasons to Ferment Veggies

1.  Ferments build your immune system with probiotics to fight the bad bugs in your belly.
2.  Ferments provide digestive support (especially as we age, our digestive systems slow.)
3.  Ferments create enzymes that enable your body to assimilate nutrients (i.e. incorporate the healthy food you eat!)
4.  Fermenting is fun!  And easy! And you don't have to boil water and make your kitchen a sauna to get the job done.


Ingredients:
cucumbers*
garlic
dill, fresh or dried
other spices - mustard seed, red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, whole cloves
sea salt (iodized salt is antibacterial, we are trying to encourage bacteria to grow!)
non-chlorinated water (again, trying to grow bacteria!)
starter (I prefer using juice from either Bubbies pickles or sauerkraut)
tannins**

*Local and organic produce is best.  By using local, you are getting peak freshness.  I recommend organic because the process of fermentation makes food easier to digest (see reason #2, above).  If the food is easier to digest, then any chemicals used on the veggies will be easier to digest, too.  I don't want to be digesting chemicals.  Use organic when fermenting.

**Below are the tannins I used: horseradish and oak leaves.  Pictured on the right is fresh dill (all from my garden!)
I really liked the flavor the horseradish imparted to the pickles.  However, oak is just fine, too.  You can also use grape leaves for tannins.  You definitely want to use some kind of tannin, otherwise you will have flabby pickles.

I basically used this recipe from Cultures for Health.  I didn't have mustard seed.  Other spices I used were 2 large cloves of garlic, two sprigs of dill, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and a few black peppercorns.  I followed the recipe except, I used about 1/4 cup of Bubbies juice to the half gallon jar of ferment to act as a starter.  In the quart jar, I used about 2T of Bubbies juice.  Cultures for Health doesn't mention using a starter in that recipe, but in my experience, using a starter helps to achieve a consistent and palatable flavor.

In the half gallon I used less red pepper, more oak leaves and some horseradish.   The quart jar was spicier and only used horseradish for tannins (no oak leaves).  There is a subtle oak flavor when using oak leaves, emphasis on subtle.  If I didn't tell you about the oak, you probably couldn't put your finger on it.

The picture on the left is just after assembly, the one on the right is 36 hours later.  Notice how the brine is becoming cloudier.  That means magic is happening in the jar.

 You'll see in the picture below that on the third day the jar is even cloudier.  If your kitchen is warmer than 70*, I recommend fermenting in a cooler with a block of ice (not touching).  Ferments prefer to do their magic in the 60-70* range.  Anything warmer than that can cause an imbalance of proper bacteria.  Read more about warm weather care for ferments here.  Here you will find more tips for crunchier lacto-fermented pickles.
They taste just like Bubbies brand.  One of my taste testers went so far as to say they were better.

Don't just take my word for it.  Go make some!
Julie

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Jun 2, 2015

Good Fats in My Kitchen

Thankfully the skinny is out on the low-fat diet trend.  People are opening their eyes to the wisdom of healthy traditional cultures who eat great amounts of saturated fats.  

Fat is what makes food taste good.  And it's what helps stabilize your hormones and blood sugars.  Oh, and did you know if you dehydrated your brain, half of it would be ...wait for it...FAT.  Growing children need lots of good fat.  Hormonal women need fat.  Want to think clearly?  Eat fat.  Trying to loose weight?  Eat fat.

As I was making pancakes one day, it dawned on me to write a blog post about the different kind of fats I use in the kitchen. (However, putting that thought into action has taken a month...or two.)

In no particular order, here are a few pictures and reasons I use each of these fats.

Pork Lard is excellent for frying as it lends itself well to high heat.  I don't recommend lard from the grocery store, as it has been hydrogenated for a longer shelf life.  This industrialized process deems it very unhealthy.  

Buy lard from a local farmer or render some yourself, it isn't difficult. Pigs that roam outdoors absorb vitamin D from the sun and this vitamin D is passed along to me (as opposed to industrial pork that never sees the light of day).  Eat lard and don't feel guilty.  Freckle Face Farm is usually at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Saturdays.
With lard, I like to deep fry falafel, fry pancakes on the griddle, frying potatoes, making tortillas, pie crusts and even biscuits.  Some people like to pop their popcorn in lard.  However, I prefer to pop mine in a combination of coconut oil and palm oil (below, palm oil is the reddish orange oil).  Movie popcorn originally used palm oil (thus the nice orange color of popcorn at the theater).
Coconut oil can be used in baking or frying.  Unrefined coconut oil will impart a bit of a coconut flavor, whereas lard is a neutrally flavored fat.  I have purchased gallons coconut oil from Tropical Traditions and Mountain Rose Herbs and prefer the latter.

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat.  If you roast a chicken, or cook one in a crock pot, the fat that rises to the top of the broth is schmaltz.  It can be skimmed and used for frying and lower temperatures.  I like to sauté veggies, especially onions in schmaltz.
Butter - oh man, do we eat some butter.  In the winter it seems we eat almost twice as much as the rest of the year.  It is not uncommon for our family of 5 to eat 2 pounds a week.  We slather butter on most anything (my husband has been known to put it on bananas!)  One of the many benefits of butter is that it is already packaged in handy proportions.  You will find conventional butter (not organic) in my fridge most days because I'd break the bank buying organic butter.  The way I figure it, the majority of my family's fats are from clean, local sources so I don't feel guilty about buying conventional butter.  I buy organic butter occasionally - esp. if it is on sale.

Not pictured:
Tallow - rendered beef fat can be used similarly as pork lard.  Currently I do not have any in my kitchen but when I do, we like to fry potatoes in it.

Bacon grease -  It's like gold.  I save it in a jar in the fridge - it will keep for months.  My favorite application is to flavor sautéed kale or fry eggs (lard is good for eggs too).  I've even used bacon grease to make a maple/bacon salad dressing.  Bacon is good on everything. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - I buy at least a gallon a year from Chaffin Family Orchards and use it for salad dressing and mayonnaise.

For salads, we also add nuts, cheese and avocado for more satiating power.

Toasted Expeller Pressed Sesame Oil - frying Asian inspired foods at higher temps and in salad dressing.  I use it sparingly because the flavor can be quite strong.

Grapeseed Oil - this isn't a super healthy oil but it has a neutral flavor and I feel it is better for me than canola oil.  I use equal portions of grape seed and olive oil when making mayonnaise.

Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil from Green Pasture.  These are used as supplements (aka vitamins). 

Which fats have I forgotten?  Do you have a favorite?

Eat some healthy fat at every meal,
-Julie

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May 30, 2015

Tip for Fresh (& Organic!) Veggies

The sight of insects or worms can be unnerving if you aren't used to seeing them in your produce.    Grocery store produce has been washed throughly and is often sterile.  Whereas local produce will have a bit more, shall I say... character

This week in my local veggies, cabbage worms (caterpillars) greeted me.  Upon seeing them, I gave thanks that my farmer wasn't using chemicals to fight the bad guys.  I could fight them in the sink. 

I texted several of my friends, warning them about the crawlies, and encouraged them to eat the broccoli soon. 
One friend texted back with sage wisdom.  In the event you find crawlies in your veggies this summer I'll share her words.  She said, "Mom used to soak veggies in a sink of salt water which would make the worms crawl to the top."

Makes sense to me.  And I tried it - it works.  Once visible, I flicked 'em back in the water where they died.  Soaking in salt water is a bit more laborious than just picking and squishing.  But if squishing gives you the jeebies then try salt water. 
And the next time you see bugs (or bug marks) on your produce from a farmers market, give thanks for chemical-free food!

Julie

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May 4, 2015

Vegetable Fermenting Workshop - May 15

On Friday, May 15 at 7pm, I will be hosting a vegetable fermenting workshop in my kitchen.  We will learn the hows and whys of lacto-fermenting.  I will open my fridge and let you taste the ferments my family enjoys.  Together we will make probiotic-packed sauerkraut.
Making sauerkraut is so easy that a 2-year old can do it.  Here are pictures to prove it.

 Caroline turns 5 this week and still loves helping in the kitchen.

Class size is limited; only 5 openings remain.  Cost is $10 per person.  Email me if you are interested: luvmyhub AT gmail.com  

-Julie

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Mar 12, 2015

Vegetable Fermenting Class

A reader contacted me and asked if I would teach a class on vegetable fermentation in her kitchen.  Of course!  We had a fabulous time.

When I pulled out my kraut pounder, the most senior woman exclaimed, "Oh, so that's what that thing is!  I have one sitting on my mantle but didn't know what it was for."  As a child, she had even made sauerkraut.

If you're interested in hosting a class with friends, shoot me an email and we can talk details.

-Julie
luvmyhub@gmail. com

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Mar 9, 2015

Pâté from Butcher and Public

One of the many things I have learned from Dr. Price's work with people untouched by ill-effects of modern food is the importance of eating organ meats.  Organ meats are some of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet.

Knowing I should eat liver and actually eating liver are two different things.

I've tried to hide liver in enchiladas (my taste buds found it.)  I have a beef tongue in my freezer wanting to try this recipe because I've heard that tongue is quite palatable if you can get over the fact that you're preparing a tongue.  Also in my freezer is a beef heart and too many packages of liver.

Nutrition in my freezer does nothing for my body unless I eat it.

So -- what's a girl to do?

Buy ice cream and pâté.  Seriously.

Ice cream is the reward for eating organ meat.  

What is pâté?  
In simple terms, pâté is cooked ground meat with a high concentration of fat.  Usually it is a combination of meat which includes a portion of liver as well as other organ meats.  Other names it goes by: liverwurst or braunschweiger. 

I decided to leave the preparation to Butcher & Public in Argenta.  [Travis, the butcher, uses locally grown *clean* animals for his meats *awesome*.]  The day I was in the store, they offered two varieties of pâté.  Upon my request, they were eager to offer samples of each type.  In the end I bought some of both.

The variety on the left, above, was composed of liver, kidney and maybe one other organ.  Its texture was similar to bologna; firmer than the pâté on the left.  It was flavorful in a delightful smoked meat kind of way.

The pâté on the right had a higher concentration of liver, which caused it to taste more liver-y.  The texture was creamy, more like a meat mousse, which means it probably also had more fat in it, too.

They both were definitely palatable.  I might go so far to say the one on the left was delicious.
Once home, I toasted slices of a baguette and added honey mustard just as they'd done in the store.  (I make honey mustard with equal parts of ...wait for it...honey and mustard.)

As you may guess, just because I liked the taste of something in the store does not mean it will pass the taste test from the pickiest of my tribe.
 For the gluten-free eaters in my house, I prepared it on slices of cucumber.
What did my family think?

I was shocked.  My most adventurous child couldn't be persuaded to eat more than the thank you portion.  The pickiest eater said, "I could eat this for an after school snack...everyday."  This is saying something.

Here's the kicker: we had pizza for dinner.  The picky child, who always calls me out for even the slightest change in a recipe, had eaten so much pâté that he only ate one piece of pizza -- when he usually eats 3 or 4.  He had eaten more pâté than everyone combined.  This is huge.

The morals from my story:
1.  Buy pâté from Butcher & Public.  Hillcrest Artisan Meats also makes it.  I haven't tried it at HAM but have drooled from their Instagram feed.  
2.  Eat it. (Because it doesn't do the body good just sitting in the fridge.)
3.  Bribe your family with ice cream.  The Clean Plate Club has its rewards.  By the way, when I passed around the initial samples of pâté, I didn't mention ice cream.  I wanted to see what my people would do without a sweet promise.  Ice cream was mentioned after pizza. 

Other articles
How to Eat More Organ Meats by Chris Kessler (great article + recipes)
Health Benefits of Eating Organ Meats by Dr. Mercola
Why Everyone Should Be Eating Organ Meat by The Paleo Mom

Pssst -- Interested in learning about butchering a whole hog?  Travis from Butcher & Public is teaching a class March 21.  Check out the details here.

-Julie

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Mar 4, 2015

A Salad Dressing for Mexican Night

If you would like a light dressing to compliment a Mexican meal, look no further.  This one is simple yet flavorful.

Often I encourage people, who want to take baby steps towards healthier living, to make their own salad dressing.  Store bought salad dressings are made with unhealthy oils and usually chocked full of corn syrup.  When you make your own salad dressing you know what's in there, the quality is much higher and saves you money.

The 4-Ingredient Salad Dressing

1.  lime juice
2.  honey
3.  olive oil
4.  sea salt

Lime juice = When I made it this week, I juiced 2 limes.  Some limes can be really dry but these gave me about 1/4 cup lime juice.  You could also use bottled lime juice.  I think fresh is more flavorful (when I can remember to grab them while I'm at the store!) but also fresh limes have enzymes that help you digest your food.  The bottled lime juice has been pasteurized for longer shelf life.

honey = I used about 2 tablespoons of honey.  You can add more, or less.  Just don't omit.  Whisk the honey  into the lime juice.

olive oil = about 1/3 cup.  If you can think of the lime juice and honey as one, you want about equal that amount of olive oil.  [I buy a gallon of Chaffin Family Olive Oil once a year.]

sea salt = about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt.  Please add the salt.  It's a game changer for this dressing.  Also, making the switch to sea salt is another simple, painless baby step toward healthier living.  The sea provides many trace minerals our modern diets are lacking.

The Salad

Start with green lettuce.  I went to the grocery store specifically to buy jicama but they were out [I've written about jicama here.]  So I decided to add green onions and thin slices of apple, since those are the flavors that jicama imitates.

Easy peasy.  

Hope you try it.
Julie


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Feb 19, 2015

2 Quick & Easy Veggie Recipes Plus a Kitchen Tip

Remember me raving about Table 28?  I tried to recreate one of our favorite dishes: Brussel sprouts and bacon with pecans.  I started with this recipe but forgot to add the balsamic vinegar.  However, I remembered the pecans and then I added...wait for it...blue cheese.  Heaven, y'all.  Rush to the grocery store now and buy some sprouts and swine.  If you're not a fan of the blue cheese, don't use it but make this recipe.  If you're out of pecans, no worries, make this recipe.  Bacon and Sprouts will do you right.  Pinky swear.  EDIT: Add blue cheese and toasted pecans after roasting Brussel sprouts, just before serving.
Secondly, also the in cruciferous family, is roasted cabbage.  It is only recently that I have become a lover of roasted cabbage.  HB and I took a cooking class at 42 (restaurant at Clinton Library) and the chef quartered heads of cabbage, slathered them in pats of butter, wrapped it in foil then put it on the grill. Wow.  Delish and super easy.

In case you haven't been outside in a while, baby it's cold outside.  And I don't want to grill.

So I bring to you: Roasted Cabbage in a cast iron skillet.
Super easy and fast.

1.  Heat your skillet.  Get it HOT.  (medium high or high setting)
2. Quick chop your cabbage. (or do this ahead)
3. Plop some fat into the skillet, something that can withstand the heat.  Bacon grease is my preference for this dish.  Lard is good.  Ghee.  Coconut oil works too but it will taste coconutty if using unrefined coconut oil.
4.  Drop the cabbage in.
5.  Don't push it around.  Be patient.  Let it sear and get bits of brown crusties.  Use tongs to grab and flip.
6.  Season with sea salt.

I used about 3/4 a head of medium cabbage in this 12" square skillet.  It was probably too much cabbage and crowded the pan but I wanted to clean out the fridge (can I hear an amen from the mommas?)  Waste not want not.  My 2 year old ate the most and there was enough for Hubby to take for lunch today.

Lastly, my tip.  A 25ft roll of parchment paper is $1 at the Dollar Tree next to Michael's on Markham.  Parchment paper has changed my life.  It makes the difference with cookies, the edges are perfect.  Using parchment when you roast anything drastically reduces clean up time.

-Julie

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