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Tuesday, June 17, 2014


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(by Hannah Grunzke
I added this website  under "LINKS OF INTEREST" on the Home page for your easy access.)

I really miss my garden's fresh herbs in the winter.  I've found that chopping herbs in the food processor and freezing them in olive oil maintains their freshness 
and is a super time saver all year round.

There are several herbs I wouldn't be caught dead using dried: parsley, basil and dill do not maintain their flavor when dehydrated (to my liking, anyways).  When freezing herbs in oil, I typically use parsley or cilantro as a base and add a well-proportioned amount of other herbs that I know will go well i certain dishes.  Today, I made alight and summery mix of dill and parsley with garlic, an Italian mix of basil, rosemary, oregano and thyme, and one of pure basil with just a touch of garlic.

To use the herb cubes, toss them into your finished dish just a couple minutes before it's done cooking and stir.  The herbs will infuse flavor into sauces and soups in a minute or two but you don't want to cook them too long or their flavor will be muted greatly.  These herb cubes are also great for making salad dressings or tossed into your batch of homemade broth.

IN A FOOD PROCESSOR chop garlic (if using) before adding the green herbs.  Then fill the basin with fresh herbs (just the leaves, no stems) of your choice.  Turn onto the chop setting and slowly pour in olive oil while processing.  Stop pouring oil when there is enough moisture for the mix to come together.  Stop processing when most of the large chunks of herb are chopped fine.

Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze overnight.  Remove cubes from the tray and place in containers labelled with the type of  herb mix.

Here are some ideas and proportions to get you started.  For each recipe, start by adding one cube, then more to taste.

SPRING MIX: 5 parts parsley to 3 parts dill.  Add to a simple dressing of oil and vinegar or egg lemon soup.

ITALIAN MIX: 5 parts basil, 2 parts oregano, 1 past thyme, 1/2 part rosemary.  Mix into hamburger when making meatballs or add to Tuscan Tomato Soup.

BASIL AND GARLIC: 1 garlic clove to each cup of basil.  Add to Red Sauce or to a dressing for Sweet Pepper and Olive Salad.


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Monday, June 16, 2014

The 15 Most Powerful Herbs/Spices that Should be in Your Spice Rack

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As part of my regular workshops, seminars and herb courses, I often teach "Kitchen Herbology' - featuring healing foods and spices from the kitchen.  I first published this Post back in March, and thought with the Spring and everyone cooking healthier (you are, right??? SMILEY FACE) I'd rePost this.

Fell free to share what you learn here with your family and friends ~ and to post comments on your personal experiences with the herbs, foods and remedies ~ so we all can expand the tools in our Medicine Bags!

Of all the herbs and spices you can choose from for flavor, 
there are 15 that are more powerful than the rest.

1. BASIL - Basil is an herbal carminative, that is, it can relieve gas and soothe stomach upsets. One possible
explanation for its calming effect is a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to help ease muscle spasms. Research is still preliminary, but laboratory studies also suggest that compounds found in basil may help disrupt the dangerous chain of events that can lead to the development of cancer.
2. CAYENNE – Cayenne pepper is a hot red powder made from tropical chili peppers. It contains alkaloid capsaicin, which relieves pain by blocking the chemicals that send pain messages to the brain. If you eat cayenne at the first sign of any type of headache, with plenty of water as a chaser, this spicy herb may be an effective alternative treatment. Added to food, cayenne perks up appetite, improves digestion and relieves gas, nausea, and indigestion. The herb also thins phlegm and eases its passage from the lungs, thus helping to prevent and treat coughs, colds and bronchitis.
3. CINNAMON – Cinnamon bark contains an oily chemical called cinnamaldehyde that kills a variety of illness causing bacteria, including the dreaded E.coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureas. Research shows that cinnamon is also able to stop the growth of the Asian flu virus. Herbalists report that cinnamon bark also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and checks flooding during menopause. Also cinnamaldehyde has a tranquilizing effect that helps reduce anxiety and stress.
4. CLOVE – Oil of clove is 60 to 90 percent eugenol. A potent pain deadening antimicrobal. Clove has earned the official endorsement of the FDA as an effective stopgap measure for tooth pain. Clove is also among the spices that can help the body use insulin more effectively, thus lowering blood sugar somewhat. In one lab study, clove was also found to speed healing of the dreaded cold sores. On the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale used by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to assess the antioxidant value of foods, clove has the highest ORAC score.
5. DILL – Dill has been used to soothe the digestive tract and treat heartburn, colic and gas for thousands of years. In fact, the word dill comes from the Old Norse word dilla, meaning to lull or soothe. The herb has an antifoaming action that suggests why it might help break up gas bubbles. Like parsley, dill is rich in chlorophyll, which also makes it useful in treating bad breath.
6. FENNEL – Rich in volatile oils, fennel is what’s known as a carminative herb, meaning that it canease bloating, gas pains, and digestive spasms in the small and large intestines. Fennel can also reduce bad breath and body odor that originates in the intestines. Women who are breastfeeding may find that fennel, which works in a way similar to the body’s hormones, increases milk flow.

7. GARLIC – Intact garlic cloves contain an odorless, sulphur-containing amino acid called alliin. When the garlic is crushed, alliin becomes allicin. Research shows that allicin helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and also helps prevents blood clots. Garlic can also reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Compounds in this familiar bulb kill many organisms, including bacteria and viruses that cause earaches, flu and colds. Research indicates that garlic is also effective against digestive ailments and diarrhea. What’s more, further studies suggest that this common and familiar herb may help prevent the onset of cancers.
8. GINGER – When it comes to quelling the queasiness of motion sickness, ginger has no equal say herbalists. In fact, researchers have demonstrated that ginger beats dimenhydrate, the main ingredient in motion sickness drugs such as Dramamine, for controlling symptoms of seasickness and motion sickness. Ginger stimulates saliva flow and digestive activity, settles the stomach, relieves vomiting, eases pain from gas and diarrhea, and is effective as an anti-nausea remedy. This aromatic herb also helps lower cholesterol. Herbalists have also found it to be useful as a pain reliever.
9. MINT – Herbalists the world over use mint, as a premier stomach tonic, to counteract nausea and vomiting, promote digestion, calm stomach muscle spasms, relieve flatulence, and ease hiccups. Menthol, the aromatic oil in peppermint, also relaxes the airways and fights bacteria and viruses. Menthol interferes with the sensation from pain receptors, thus it may be useful in reducing headache pain. Scientific evidence suggests that peppermint can kill many kinds of micro-organisms, and may boost mental alertness. In one study, people who inhaled menthol said they felt as if it relieved their nasal congestion, although it didn’t increase their measurable air flow.
10. OREGANO – Oregano contains at least four compounds that soothe coughs and 19 chemicals with antibacterial action that may help reduce body odor. The ingredients in oregano that soothe coughs may also help un-knot muscles in the digestive tract, making oregano a digestive aid. This familiar spice also contains compounds that can lower blood pressure too.
11. PARSLEY – Diuretic herbs such as parsley prevent problems such as kidney stones and bladder infections and keep our body’s plumbing running smoothly by causing it to produce more urine. They also relieve bloating during menstruation. Also there’s a reason for that parsley on the edge of the diner plate, its not just there for fancy decoration; it’s an effective breath freshener because it contains high levels of chlorophyll.
12. ROSEMARY – Rosemary is one of the richer herbal sources of antioxidants, which have been shown to prevent cataracts, and contains 19 chemicals with antibacterial action that help fight infection. Traditionally used to ease asthma, this common culinary ingredient has volatile oils that can reduce the airway constriction induced by histamine, that chemical culprit of asthma and other allergy symptoms. Herbalists think that rosemary may also help ease breast pain by acting as a natural drying agent to fluid filled cysts.
13. SAGE – The oils found in sage are both antiseptic and antibiotic, so it can help fight infections. Sage is effective for symptoms of menopause, night sweats and hot flashes, because of its estrogenic action and because its tannins can dry up perspiration. There’s also compelling evidence that sage may be of value to people with diabetes for whom the hormone insulin does not work as efficiently as it should. Lab studies indicate that sage may boost insulin’s action.
14. THYME – Thyme contains thymol, which increases blood-flow to the skin. The warmth is comforting, and some herbalists believe that the increased blood-flow speeds healing. An anti-spasmodic. Thyme relaxes respiratory muscles and is endorsed for treating bronchitis by Commission E, the expert panel that judges the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicines for the German government. Aromatherapists say that thyme’s scent is a mood lifter.
15. TURMERIC – Many clinical studies agree that curcumin in turmeric has anti-inflammatory effects, including a significant beneficial effect in relieving rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Curcumin, which gives this spice its familiar yellow pigment, may also lower cholesterol. Turmeric is also packed with antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, which have been shown to prevent cataracts. Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.
Passed down to us by our forefathers and countless generations throughout the world, these 15 food additives and enhancers are just a selected few that are currently known to have medicinal and beneficial properties, yet represent the more commonly used.

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DON'T DIET . . . . Embrace Healthy Eating as a Lifestyle

We all know those people — the ones who never seem to have to even try to stay in shape.
The ones who get up early on a Saturday morning to work out with a smile on their face, then polish off a cookie (or two) later that day — without ever obsessing over calories or seeming to put on a single pound.
And while it may seem like they just have really good genes, whether they know it or not, naturally fit people have built up a set of habits over the years that have allowed them to stay in shape without putting in a lot of effort.
Here are 5 things naturally fit people do differently:
1. They actually enjoy staying active
If you’re one of those people who dreads every minute of your upcoming workout, it’s time to find a different approach to exercise.
Because most of the time, fit people find a way to actually enjoy — and even look forward to — their workouts.
And while that may not always mean they’re excited to do 100 burpees on any given day, it does mean that they like the feeling of being fit and value that more than their desire to sit on the couch.
If you really dread exercise, the problem may be with your workout, not you. Everyone enjoys doing different things — I used to hate working out when I thought running was the only way to stay in shape, but ever since I discovered HIIT training, I can hardly take a day off from my workouts (because I actually enjoy them!).
2. They don’t diet.
Have you ever known someone in really great shape who was constantly trying out every new fad diet?
Yeah, me either.
Because for the most part, fit people don’t diet — they make healthy eating a part of their lifestyle.
Ultimately, the key to staying fit and eating healthy is to learn to listen to your body. What makes you feel good and keeps you feeling full and energized throughout the day?
Learn to answer these questions for yourself, and you’ll soon be on the road to embracing healthy eating as a lifestyle — not following every new diet that comes along.
3. They spend time with other fit people.
You know that saying, “you are what you eat?” Well, you are who you eat with (and socialize with) as well.
Just think about it: if all your friends are constantly eating fast food and choosing sedentary activities instead of active ones, what do you think you’re going to do? Probably eat junk and sit around all day too.
On the other hand, if your friends are into healthy cooking, and enjoy doing active things like going for bike rides or playing tennis for fun, you’re probably going to join in and be more active as a result.
This may be tough at first if you have old friends with unhealthy habits, but you can try and encourage them to be healthy too with small changes to your usual activities — and you can always try and meet some new more active, health-minded friends as well.
4. They prioritize their sleep.
If you still think being fit is only about how often you work out, you need to think again. Because one of the top things fit people do to stay healthy and fit isn’t exercise-based at all — it’s getting enough sleep.
Not only does sleep give you the energy you need to work out consistently, it also helps regulate your metabolism, repair your muscles, boost your athletic performance and more. Try and get at least 7-8 hours a night.
5. They don’t try to be “perfect.”
Sure, there’s that rare person that refuses even a single bite of dessert in order to stay lean and actually seems to be OK with it. But most of us need to reward ourselves with a treat sometimes in order to keep our sanity.
Giving yourself permission to enjoy your favorite treat now and then — whether it's something as simple as a latte or even a chocolate chip cookie — will ensure you don’t feel bitter about your healthy diet (then go crazy and binge on all the things you feel like you're missing out on).
The same is true with your workouts — if you can tell your body is asking for a day off even when you hadn't planned on taking one, give yourself the rest your body needs, and refuse to feel guilty because of it.
Seek balance in both your eating habits and your workouts, and you'll be a healthier, happier and fitter person as a result.

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