Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Summer Squash Bread

I'm really lovin this Squash Bread.  The original recipe from Heidi is made from Zucchini, but I have an abundance of squash in my new garden and needed something to make with it besides pickles.  Yes, I have made 9 jars of squash pickles so far.  I've given away maybe 2 dozen fresh squash and yet they just keep coming!  That is really the joy of growing your own food.  Watching the little plants spring up practically overnight and becoming a tangled web of vines that you wonder if it is going to open your door and bind you up in the middle of the night.  Ok, I haven't actually had nightmares that my squash is going to eat me, but I am definitely enjoying eating it.

This recipe may border on weird for some of you but I promise the flavors and seasonings are stellar together in the bread.  Walnuts, poppy seeds, candied ginger, curry, and a touch of lemon fragrantly season this Thai spiced bread.  All of these ingredients are optional, but doing it "fully loaded" won't disappoint.  The squash bake right in and practically disappear.  I would have no idea that there is vegetables in it if I didn't make it myself.  

Heidi's Zucchini (or Squash) Bread

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cup poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup unsalted butter ( I used fragrant coconut oil)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. 

In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. 

In a separate large bowl or mixer, beat the butter (or coconut oil) until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally between two 5x9 loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. Err on the side of under cooking this bread because you don't want it to dry out. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling so it will not become soggy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not even in moderation: Soda

Soda!?  I'm sure about 99% of America drinks soda daily, whether in regular or diet form.  I believe that soda made the old fashioned way, while still terrible for you (hello 40 g of sugar!) is a lot more tolerable than the way soda is made today.  If you really want a soda, in moderation, you should go for an "all natural" variety - one without artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.  But even that, after reading the following, may not sound like such a good idea.

In the words of the website Dr.Momma.org:

According to the Nutrition Research Center, this is what happens to your body within one hour of drinking a can of soda:

-10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system, which is 100 percent of your recommended daily intake. You'd normally vomit from such an intake, but the phosphoric acid cuts the flavor.

-20 minutes: Your blood sugar skyrockets. Your pancreas attempts to maximize insulin production in order to turn high levels of sugar into fat.

-40 minutes: As your body finishes absorbing the caffeine, your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your liver pumps more sugar into the bloodstream. Adenosine receptors in your brain are blocked preventing you from feeling how tired you may actually be.

-45 minutes: Your body increases dopamine production, causing you to feel pleasure and adding to the addictiveness of the beverage. This physical neuro response works the same way as it would if we were consuming heroin.

<60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, which boosts your metabolism a bit further. High doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners compound this effect, increasing the urinary excretion of calcium. The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (You have to GO!) Your body will eliminate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was otherwise heading to your bones. And you will also flush out the sodium, electrolytes and water. Your body has eliminated the water that was in the soda. And in the process it was infused with nutrients and minerals your body would have otherwise used to hydrate your system or build body cells, bones, teeth.

>60 minutes: The sugar crash begins. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You start feeling like crap. Time to grab another? 

That description makes me want to cringe from all the times I drank soda.  Can you imagine the people that drink almost nothing but soda all day?  How really horrible they must feel and not even know it?  Or they know it and are attributing it to being tired, not getting enough sleep, allergies, stress, thinking they are getting sick, etc.  And to see children drinking this stuff?  Lord, help us all.  

Some people may think that Diet Soda has to be better because it doesn't have the sugar.  Here's another excerpt from the same site on Diet Soda:

A study from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported that healthy women who drank diet cola excrete more calcium and phosphorous than non-cola drinkers.  The findings were presented by Dr. Noelle Larson in a presentation at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society and focused only on diet soda. She focused on diet cola mainly because of observations that young women tend to drink large amounts of diet cola.

In the study, 20 healthy women were randomized to drink 24 ounces of water or diet cola on two different days. Their urine was collected repeatedly up to three hours later. Those who drank diet cola excreted more calcium and phosphorous than the control group. The mean calcium excretion three hours after drinking cola was 6.85 milligrams higher than after drinking water. Mean phosphorous excretion was 41 milligrams higher in the cola group than the control group, according to the abstract.

Calcium and phosphorus are both important nutrients that work together to build strong bones and teeth. Previous studies have reported that cola drinkers (both diet and regular soda) have lower bone mineral density and increased fracture rate compared to non-cola drinkers.

“Our study suggests that diet cola ingestion may result in a negative calcium balance acutely in young, otherwise healthy women,” wrote Larson and her colleagues in the abstract. “This may help explain the clinically observed decrease in [bone mineral density] and increased fracture rate in women who consume these drinks regularly.”  

So there you have it.  Soda, even in moderation, just should not be consumed. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Not even in moderation: Trans Fat

Recently a friend was talking about how she wanted to feed her child healthier snacks.  Her typical snack includes Oreos and other boxed crackers and cookies.  She knows that these things are not healthy but she made the statement "there is nothing wrong with it in moderation."  Being the compassionate friend that I am *eh-hem*, I blurted out unceremoniously "YES THERE IS!"  You hear the term "everything in moderation" all the time.  Weight Watchers has made an empire and has helped millions lose weight (or not lose weight) with that very mantra.  However, I have to argue that there are some things that should never be consumed, not even in moderation.  That statement has prompted me to do a mini research project on things I believe are not ok, not even in moderation.  The first ingredient that should never be consumed is trans fat which most often comes in the form of partially hydrogenated oils.

Partially hydrogenated oils are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  In 1890 the chemistry of hydrogenation was born.  At first it was just done to vapors, but then in 1901 it was done to liquid oils. Hydrogenation adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, eliminating double bonds and making them into complete or partial saturated fats.  Partial hydrogenation converts them into trans-unsaturated fats instead of hydrogenating them completely.  This turns liquid fats into solids and makes them stable, increasing shelf life and allowing them to be unrefrigerated.  In 1911, Proctor & Gamble started making the first hydrogenated shortening, Crisco.

Why was it invented?
Prior to 1910, dietary fats consisted of mostly butterfat, beef tallow, and lard.  When the U.S. started growing soybeans they had an abundance of soybean oil and looked for something to do with it.  Meanwhile there was a shortage of butter, so they started hydrogenating the soybean oil to make it solid and *poof* you have a cheap substitute for butter that they would call margarine.  People liked margarine because you could spread it on a piece of toast right out of the refrigerator, unlike butter.  Hydrogenated oils also worked better in baked goods than lard.  Production of hydrogenated oils increased steadily until the 1960's as it was cheaper than butter and then people began to argue that trans fats or margarine was healthier than saturated fats of butter.  Processed foods like packaged cookies and cakes often have partially hydrogenated oils so they have a long shelf life.  If they were made with real food ingredients like butter, they would have to be refrigerated and would go bad within a week.  This is the main reason trans fat bombard our grocery shelves.

The problem
As early as 1956 there was suggestion that trans fats were increasing coronary artery disease but it mostly went unstudied until the 1990's.  In 1994 it was estimated that trans fat alone caused 30,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from heart disease.  By 2006 it was estimated that around 206,000 deaths were caused by trans fat.  Trans fat increases LDL (bad cholesterol) while also decreasing HDL (good cholesterol).  In comparison, saturated fat increases LDL but it does not decrease HDL.  The health concerns are not just heart disease, but trans fat has been linked to Alzheimers, Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity (duh on that one), Liver Dysfunction, Infertility in women, and depression.

FDA has required labeling of trans fat on nutrition labels but the problem is that they only require it to be listed if it has .5 g or more.  So a product can contain .49 g per serving and it will show as 0 g trans fat and even be advertised as "Trans Fat Free".  This is why it is so important to read the ingredients.  Anything that has "partially hydrogenated oils" in the ingredient list means that it has trans fat and you should drop it like its hot.

With that long list of adverse health effects, this is why I say that trans fat is not ok to eat, even in moderation, yet most of America eats them daily.  If our food industry doesn't have a serious overhaul in the next few years, all of our children will be consuming these fats whether you want them to or not, probably daily.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Curing a sinus infection naturally

I haven't featured a lot of natural remedies on this blog because *toot my own horn* I don't really get sick much.  When I do, I usually do absolutely nothing and just ride it out.  However, this year, I have had a cold several times.  I blame the toddler.  This past cold has lasted in some form or another, seven weeks now.  I was sick (achy, congested, sneezy, lethargic) for about two days and then I had congested sinuses pretty much every night for the next five weeks, until it came to a head again about two weeks ago with sever congestion, sneezing, and otherwise utter sinus misery.  My nose was so stuffy I thought I might suffocate.  Unfortunately, congestion is REALLY hard to get rid of naturally.  If I wasn't nursing I might have just taken a Benadryl and called it a day.  Even if I didn't avoid chemical medication, decongestants have always given me terrible side effects including restlessness, out of body experiences and feeling just plain high.  Decongestants are absolutely not safe for pregnant and nursing moms.  I finally decided that I must have a sinus infection (though I don't know for sure).  After all, you can't be stuffy for two weeks and not have it worsen.  Once I figured out to treat an infection instead of just the symptoms, I started to get better.

Here's what works and what doesn't for me.  Any number of these remedies might work for you depending on the severity and the cause of your congestion.

For congestion:

Worked for me:
Boil a pot of water and remove it from the stove.  Add 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil.  Cover your head and pot with a towel and inhale (as much as you can).  You will need to inhale for 5 to 10 minutes.  This helped, but only for 10 or 15 minutes, then the congestion was back.

Didn't work for me (but may for other types of congestion):
- Neti Pot - this is great if you have allergies and need to flush something out of your nose.  It is also good to use if you have a sinus infection to keep the mucus moving.
- Stinging Nettle - this only works if you have a true allergy.  Take capsules or drink tea.  Can be taken regularly through allergy season to avoid allergy flare ups.
- Bamboo Extract - I have no idea what this was supposed to do, but I went to my herbalist in a state of desperation asking for something that will "clear my nose and do it TODAY." I choked up the $42 and took it for 3 days and it did nothing to clear my congestion  Maybe it would help to get over the cold, but I don't know.  Bamboo extract should not be taken during pregnancy. 
- Saline Spray - Good for "light" congestion associated with pregnancy or allergies.  Doesn't help for inflamed sinus passages like I have.

For the infection:
Grapefruit Seed Extract - This is really the only treatment I have tried that has given me relief.  GSE is a strong natural antibiotic and works really well against fungus also.  You can buy a spray from NutriBiotics that is a GSE spray, or you can make your own by adding 2 oz of distilled water and 3 drops of GSE to an eye dropper.  Tilt your head back and drop a whole eye dropper full into each nostril and swing your head forward so that it is upside down.  Hold like this for 20 or 30 seconds for it to fill your sinuses.  Bring your head back to upright and let it drain and blow your nose gently.  Obviously, the pre-made nasal spray is going to be easier.  Do this every hour or as close to every hour as possible for a week.  I know it sounds like a lot, but it depends on how desperate you are to avoid antibiotics.  I didn't start doing this until just Saturday, and my nose finally started to clear (at least during the day) by Monday.  It isn't fast, but it works.  If I would have started the GSE nasal spray weeks ago, I bet I wouldn't be going through this now.

Another GSE option is to use it in a Neti Pot.  Add 2 or 3 drops to your pot and flush.  Do this every hour.

I also think you should take GSE internally.  You can get capsules or take the liquid in some sort of beverage.  It tastes terrible so you need a strong beverage (perhaps some decaf coffee).  Take this several times a day.

General tips
- Avoid dairy like the plague.  Dairy thickens your mucus and it will make you so much more miserable.  I know, I ate frozen yogurt one night and the congestion was instantly magnified.
- Take something to thin your mucus.  Fenugreek thins mucus and moves it out of the body (not to be used during pregnancy, but is great while lactating).  Warm lemon water or apple cider vinegar does too.  Squeeze a whole lemon into 8 oz of water.  Sweeten with stevia and drink regularly.  Or add 2 tbspns of ACV to 8 oz of water and drink.  I didn't do the ACV, but I've read it thins mucus quite well.  You need your mucus thin and watery not thick, slimy, and green.
- Drink lots of water.  That will thin your mucus too.
- Avoid sugar.  Sugar weakens your immune system and if you have an infection, sugar will feed it.
- Take an immune booster.  Astragulus or Black Elderberry, and always take Vitamin C.  Echinacea is a good option too.

Internal infections are really hard to get rid of naturally.  You'll have to really be persistent and throw some good stuff at it.  But it can be done.  I'm still trying to get rid of mine, and I've been taking the GSE for 5 days now.  If you know of any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who's "still" nursing?

Well, here it is.  The cover of Time Magazine for May 2012.   I'd say its a pretty great cover considering the point of a magazine cover is to draw attention, and boy, has it.  A thin model-like woman breast feeding a nearly four year old boy.  Of course they chose a pretty young woman and of course they chose a pretty young woman with a child that looks more man than child.  And of course they are in a position that one would never use to breast feed a child so we can all see exactly how big the boy is.  I do appreciate TIME magazine covering extended breast feeding and am glad that it is getting publicity, but they could have done a better job if they really wanted to.  But they didn't really want to, they wanted to shock.  

I absolutely believe that extended breast feeding (breast feeding beyond the age of one year) should be seen as normal and should be talked about but I really think TIME missed the mark on this one.  I believe this is a step back.  This is not going to make anyone see that breast feeding a nearly four year old is normal or natural.  There is not much natural about the picture to begin with.  Here are some pictures that I think better deserve a cover of a magazine and an article on parenting.

this child is also three

The only way we Americans are going to see "awkward" things as normal, natural, and beautiful is to be exposed to them in positive, reassuring ways.  If you talk to a mom who breast fed her children into toddlerhood or beyond and talks positively about it, you are likely going to think good thoughts about that situation.  Myself for example, I always knew I wanted to breast feed my child beyond infancy because I was breast fed until I was two and a half.  My mom always talked about it in a joyful way, telling me that she enjoyed it and I know how healthy I am and how healthy she is partially because of breast feeding, so I knew I wanted to do it too.  We need to encourage one another in our abilities and choices.  Not make it into a competition or laughing stock (thank you, Saturday Night Live).

Which leads me to the subtitle.  Why is it that here in America we have to make everything out to be a competition?  The subtitle says "Are you mom enough?"  I never knew I could be more of a mom than someone else.  Either you are a mom or you are not, there are not degrees of motherhood.  And just because the skinny blonde can breast feed till almost four years old does not mean that everyone can or will.  If you breast feed till four, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed till two, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed for one year, that is great!  Good for you!  And if you bottle feed because you or your child needs it, that is great!  Good for you!  Making someone feel inadequate or making it into a competition where you measure yourself up to what everyone else is doing is a big step backward.

The cover also says "Why Attachment Parenting drives some mothers to extremes.."  Which is a condemnation of extended breast feeding in my opinion.  It is saying that anyone who breast feeds till three or four years old is "extreme".  Maybe it is here, but it really isn't that extreme in other parts of the world.  Why also do we have to follow some method of parenting to "extremes" anyway?  Can we not think for ourselves?  We have to have Dr. Sears or the Ezzos or Ferber telling us what to do with our child every moment of the day?  Why can't we do what is natural to us and what makes sense for our family?  Why do we so often do things just because our friend told us to, or not to, or because Grandma told us to, or not to, or because some author who doesn't know me told me to, or not to?  I think if we take a step back and start looking at parenting truly as family centered (what is best for MY family, regardless of what my neighbor does) then we would have a lot more happy parents and children, and we would have a whole lot more peace about our personal decisions.

Lots of moms all over the world are still nursing, or nursing for the first time, or nursing for the last time. More people than we know are still nursing because they only nurse at home and don't talk about it for fear their friends and strangers will think they are weird.  But it isn't weird, its just weird to our culture.  I was recently called a "third world country mama" teasingly by a friend who found out I am "still" nursing.  Yet there are many other cultures, not just third-world cultures that nurse way longer than Americans do.  Most Europeans wouldn't bat an eye at a two year old nursing.  Maybe we will catch up some day, then we will start having some more positive experiences to share of people who are "still" nursing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Strawberry Cake

One of our favorite spring time activities is picking strawberries at the local strawberry farm. Rows and rows of sun warmed fresh strawberries; one for my mouth, one for the bucket. My little strawberry picker was great at it! She knew to pick only the red ones and she loved to eat all she could. The local U-pick places don't like to use pesticides because they cost money, so they generally do not use chemicals unless they think they might lose the crop. That way we know we can eat strawberries off the plant and we don't really worry about chemicals that non-organic strawberries hold from the grocery store.

Because we ended up with two gallon buckets full, I had to figure out a way to use them fast. We froze one bucket, but the bucket we kept fresh went bad pretty fast. So I whipped up this great strawberry cake. When you google search "Strawberry Cake Recipe" you find that those deep red southern favorite cakes start with "white cake mix" and "strawberry flavored gelatin". While this cake isn't near as pretty as those cakes, and is lacking frosting, it certainly isn't lacking sweet deliciousness! It is so moist and so good. I could eat the whole thing myself.

Strawberry Cake

I used fragrant coconut oil instead of butter and let me tell you, it is fabulous! Seriously consider trading your butter in this recipe. Also, I cooked it less than the 1 hour it calls for - a lot less actually, because I cooked it in a toaster oven which cooks faster. But the middle of my cake is pretty gooey (not raw) and I like it that way, so play with the time you cook it. Cook it a little less if you want a softer cake. Also, you could use any berry in this recipe. I'm going to try it with blueberries in the summer.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, or coconut oil, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.

Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.