Monthly Archives: May 2015

Healthy Recipe Ingredient Substitutions & Other Helpful Tips.

I decided to bake a batch of corn muffins to go with our vegetarian chili. I didn’t have the milk or the shortening that were called for in the recipe. I also didn’t want to use that much sugar. What to do? I am not the only person with this problem. That same day I received an email from our NUT, Ms.Helen & Eubie, asking for a recipe for healthy, dense breakfast muffins that can be frozen for future use . Ms. Helen also asked how to freeze fresh berries. Hence the topic for today’s post; Healthy, Recipe Ingredient Substitutions & Other Helpful Tips. 

I have included, both below & on our Recipe page, 2 links to websites with lists of substitutions. One is for everyday ingredients & the other is much more creative & interesting! Let’s begin with my corn muffin problem, helping Ms. Helen at the same time.

Here is my basic recipe for corn muffins. I will show you how to swap the ingredients I lacked for healthier ones & how I added ingredients to make it more dense…my substitutions are in red. This can be done with any of your favorite recipes.

Corn Muffins from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal…Red Mill, Organic, Medium Grind, Stone Ground Cornmeal. Crunchy, nutty flavor.
  • 1 cup flour…7/8 cup Organic Whole Wheat Flour for a denser muffin.
  • 1/3 cup sugar…Reduced to 1/4 cup Organic Cane Sugar. I could have used 1/3 cup of applesauce or smashed banana. You can also leave out the sugar altogether. 
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk…Organic Pacific Almond Milk
  • 1 egg, well beaten…I used Organic Eggs from a local farmer with chickens that have an entire field to live in! You can also use an egg substitute like Ener-G Egg Replacer  I like this brand & have had excellent results using it in baking.
  • 2 tablespoons melted shortening or bacon fat…I used coconut oil, adds a lovely, light flavor of coconut.
  • I added walnuts. You can also add hemp seeds to increase the protein & fiber content. Coconut shredded or grated, raisins or dried fruit, can be added to sweeten it more.
  • For an interesting dinner corn muffin, leave out the sugar & add chopped green chili’s & grated cheese of your choice. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add milk, eggs & shortening, & blend well. Pour batter into a muffin pan, fill each cup 3/4 full. It will make 12 muffins. Bake 20 minutes. Same recipe can be poured into a greased 8″ square pan. The muffins freeze well.

That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Well, it can be if you don’t know what to substitute with. Here are the links I promised you.

  • Common Ingredient Substitutions This is a good website to look up common ingredients such as baking  powder, butter, brown sugar, & buttermilk. It is very handy, so I made a copy to put in my recipe file. The website that has this list is Allrecipes This is a great site for recipes of all kinds. The recipes are rated by users which gives you an idea of how easy or popular it is. 
  • 83 Healthy Recipe substitutions  This is the website that I said was very creative. How to use Black Beans in place of flour; Applesauce to replace sugar, butter or oil;  Nut Flours for regular flour & 80 other creative ideas. Bookmark this site for future use. It is quite an amazing list! Check out their recipes too.

I found a recipe for dense, breakfast muffins that you may like. Blueberry Breakfast Muffins Here is what they say about them on the website;  Warning! These are not fluffy little cakes. They’re dense and filling breakfast-on-the-go.They contain no oil or butter and are dairy-free with only a 1/3 cup of sugar in the whole batch.”  I like the recipe but it calls for ingredients I don’t want to spend the money on. When I make them, I will definitely be doing some substitutions!

Another recipe I liked: Healthy Harvest Breakfast Muffins  “Yummy muffins pack a nutritious punch in the morning, great for a healthy grab-n-go breakfast. You can alter this recipe any way you like and with what you have on hand, very versatile. I started with Banana Oat Muffins from Kathy-Lynn and tweaked it so much it turned into something else. Recipe includes a brown sugar & nut topping. I used almonds and walnuts, but any kind of nut would be good with this.”  This one has ingredients that I have!

What about Ms. Helen’s other question? How do you freeze fresh berries? Where I live there are blackberries bushes everywhere. When we used to come here to camp, in September, we would pick a container full of berries for our desert. Now that I live here I am looking forward to blackberry season. I will freeze as many as I can shove into the freezer. Here are some simple instructions from FarmFlavor

  1. Rinse berries carefully in a colander. Place them on paper towels and drain well.
  2. Place them in a single layer on a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet, and put the pan in the freezer. (If needed, line the pan with parchment paper.) You can also place them in a single layer in a freezer bag to freeze. You will use a lot of plastic this way.
  3. When hardened, they can be placed in freezer bags or plastic containers. Frozen berries will last for about three months.  I plan on freezing them as described & then put them in a 1-1/2 pint canning jar (freezer safe) for storage in the freezer. 

Thawed berries can still be very nice in sauces, smoothies and in baking. They do tend to weep. Maybe that’s because they miss the sweetness of summer. Wonderful over Greek yogurt! A reminder that you can freeze bananas too. I peel them, cut them in thirds, put them in a single serving container & freeze. When added to a smoothie they make it cold & creamy. 

I have received several emails asking me what to store leftovers in for the refrigerator and/or the freezer. I struggled with this question myself. Do you use plastic wrap, foil or plastic containers? These are the cheapest way to do it. If you are concerned with BPA in the plastic & aluminum in the foil then glass is what you need.

Pyrex & Anchor Hocking both have glass storage bowls with BPA-free plastic lids. This is what I use. But lately the plastic lids have started to break. I didn’t want to replace them because it is expensive to do so. I did some research & found an awesome alternative; Mason canning jars! I use them for leftover soup, stew, bean dishes etc. They are very inexpensive, easy to clean, come in different sizes & don’t take up much space.

I purchased mine at Ace HardwareThe link will take you to the list of jars & their sizes, prices & more information. Ball is the brand I bought. I found the 1-1/2 pint in a pack of 9 for $12.99. I made sure they were wide mouth, have BPA free lids & are freezer safe. Check the labels on the box for “BPA free & freezer safe”. Not all are. They also come in a 6 pack or individually. Walmart carries them in packs too.

I also purchased Ball 4oz dry Herb Jars with shaker tops. They came in a 4 pack for $6.49 at Ace Hardware. I use them for a shaker for dry cheese, nutrtional yeast, dried herbs I mix together & my husband uses them to disperse clover seed in our yard! They are great to have available and inexpensive.

Speaking of BPA. Here is a list of the companies who have taken the BPA out of the plastic liner in their canned goods. The list keeps getting longer each time l check which makes me very happy to see. Mother Nature Network (MNN) has the most recent list. Make sure to check the labels or the bottom of the can. Eden’s labels say BPA-free. Others stamped the bottom of the can. Check your favorite brands even if not on the MNN list. This is an industry wide change; Campbell Foods announced that their cans will be BPA free by 2015.

I hope this information has been helpful. I will leave you with this thought by Dr. Mark Hyman…..

Dr. Hyman What is at the end of your fork



Healthy Eating on a Budget; Making Choices

I don’t think that I know anyone who is not on some sort of a budget. We all have to eat and to feed our families. It is tough to make healthy choices on a strict grocery budget. Grocery bills are high whether they are Organic or not. I was thinking about this dilemma because I have the same problem.

The truth about the choices we need to make came home to roost when Alessandra posted an article on Facebook; What to Eat When You’re Broke  from the Eat Local Grown websiteThis is written by a mother who finds herself having to make difficult choices to feed her family which includes a small child. I will reproduce parts of this article that I think are relevant to us and comment on them. You can read the entire article by clicking on the title above.

The article starts with a couple of facts that affect all of us. The lower your income is, the more difficult it is to be particular about what you feed your family.” &  “Food manufacturers that target lower income shoppers with more affordable products tend to include more GMOs and toxic ingredients in their offerings.” ***You just need to read labels on processed foods to see this in action! Both statements are true and hard to swallow because we expect more from our government than the lack of oversight they show in the production, availability & cost of healthy food. 

This is the list the author gives of what she generally tries to avoid. Sound familiar?

“It just isn’t possible to stick to my usual food restrictions.  Generally speaking I avoid:

  • Non-organic dairy because of the hormones and antibiotics as well as the GMO feed given to the animals
  • Non-organic meat because of the hormones and antibiotics as well as the GMO feed given to the animals
  • Anything containing corn, soy, or canola in any form because it is almost certain to be GMO ***This is true if it is not a certified organic product.
  • Anything with chemical additives like artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives ***Especially any ingredient you can’t pronounce!
  • Anything that is likely to have been doused in pesticides
  • Anything containing neurotoxins like MSG, fluoride, or aspartame (along with other artificial sweeteners)

It is a matter, then, of weighing the pros and cons, and figuring out what things, for you, are the most important, while also deciding which standards can be sacrificed.  These decisions will be different for everyone, based on their personal health concerns, their genetic propensity for certain diseases, and the members of the family for whom they are buying the food.”  ***The section that I underlined is extremely important to remember. Let’s read it again… “These decisions will be different for everyone, based on their personal health concerns, their genetic propensity for certain diseases, and the members of the family for whom they are buying the food.”  ***Wow, that puts it all in a nut shell; whether we are on a budget or not. 

***The author points out that when you are in that low income bracket you may have just two options now:

1.) Buy strictly healthy organic foods and feed your family for perhaps 8 out of the 14 days.

2.) Carefully select which standards you will relax to keep the tummies of your family full throughout the wait for the next paycheck.

Very few people are going to choose option one. ***She is absolutely correct here. Option #2 is it. So what do you do? Which standards do you relax?

Read the article for the authors list of what she would do. It has a lot of good information and tips. What to Eat When You’re Broke   

I will share my information with links to help you make a healthier choice for your budget. The reality is, it will be different for each one of us. For example; I am not giving up my Organic Coffee in the morning. I will give it up in the afternoon if I have to, but only if I have to!!

Okay, so here are the healthy choices and links to help you decide whether you can still afford to buy them.

  • GMO’s: Genetically modified foods. We know that they are banned in most countries overseas. We also know that there are no long term research studies regarding the safety for humans. Look Non-GMOfor the non-GMO label on packaging. There are hundreds of companies that are labeling their products on their own. Some major corporations have started doing this too. Click here for detailed information regarding non-GMO products, restaurants & participating companies: Non-GMO Project. 
  • Pesticide laden foods: This would be a difficult choice if it wasn’t for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Yearly, they publish a Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen list. To get both 2015 lists that you can cut out and take with you shopping click here: EWG  This is the advice that EWG gives in the FAQ section on their website….

    “Do all these pesticides mean I shouldn’t eat fruits and vegetables?  ….No, eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.” ***This is true. Using their lists & being an informed shopper, you will make better decisions. Washing the produce with white vinegar will help to remove the pesticides on the outside of the produce but not what came up through the root system. This is why choosing most of your vegetables & fruits from the Clean 15 List guarantees less pesticides. These are sprayed from above during their growing season. Choosing from the bottom up of the Dirty Dozen + List will do the same. According to my research, the price of pesticides has gone up so much that the growers are using less.  

1. Avocados
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Sweet peas frozen
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangos
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet potatoes

  • Non-Organic Meat: Most of the popular grocery stores offer “Hormone Free” & “Antibiotic Free” meats. When you go into the meat department, look at the signs in front of the packaged meat. If you don’t see it then ask the manager of the department. I didn’t see a large price difference like you see with Certified Organic meats. The other point to consider is that if you are trying to eat healthier you would be eating a smaller portion of chicken, fish, & turkey. I realize that ground beef is the cheapest & if this is what you need to buy then buy the leanest you can find and serve a smaller portion. It should be only 1/4 of your plate. One serving of meat fits into the palm of your hand. Have several “vegetarian nights” if you are usually a meat eater. Replace the meat with a bean, bean & grain or a vegetarian pasta dish. Cheaper & healthier.
  • Non-Organic Dairy: I have been seeing more and more  “Hormone Free” & “Antibiotic Free” labels on non-organic dairy. Again, be informed & read the labels. Generic, store brands, are the healthiest picks. They will have fewer ingredients. The amount of sugar is always less in store brands. Making your own nut milk is an option but~the price of nuts is terribly high right now & may become even higher with the drought. I rarely use dairy except in my coffee! I will continue to buy Organic Half & Half. For cereal, we still use a nut milk, but try to have cereals that don’t require milk, like oatmeal. I am not making my own nut milk right now because of the price of organic nuts..$16/pound or more. I buy Pacific brand plain Almond milk. It has a long shelf life. 
  • Processed, Packaged foods: These should be your last choice no matter what your budget is. These “foods” are full of pesticides, GMO’s, chemicals etc.  If you must use them, then again, buy the store brand. Non-organic grains & plain pastas would be a much healthier choice. Again, check the store brand label. Should contain only the grain, nothing else. Good old Semolina pasta is the best choice. Fewer ingredients and store brand is cheaper.
  • Canned: Buy the generic store brands. They have less sugar, sodium & preservatives. Much cheaper too! I buy dried beans instead of canned. I have learned that there is no need to soak them overnight. Put them in a pot, cover with water & a lid. Bring them to the boil then turn off the heat & let them sit for an hour. They are now ready for the recipe, using the water you soaked them in; cook until tender (about 3 hours depending on the kind of bean). They can be made in a big batch & then frozen in 2 cup containers for use in recipes later. Dried beans are very inexpensive.
  • Frozen: Buy the generic store brand! Frozen peas should only have peas in the package. Just for a laugh, compare the Jolly Green Giant brand with the store brand. You will see that the store brand has fewer ingredients & is way cheaper!

***Yesterday, I received a flyer in the mail from our local Safeway~they own Vons in Southern California & Southern Nevada~and was happily surprised to see what we just discussed.

They have an organic produce section, which can be expensive, but they do offer local, pesticide free produce, that is affordable. They also advertised Organic produce on sale~Fuji Apples $1.99/pound for example.

In the meat section they had organic meats, grass fed beef & hormone free/antibiotic free chicken~by Foster Farms~ on sale.

Canned Organic Beans~all kinds~are 4 cans for $5.00.

Dairy was interesting. 24 ounces Clover Organic Yogurt for $4.99. Non-organic is much higher for less yogurt!

We need to explore our local grocery stores, Walmart & Costco. Compare prices for Organic foods & their store brands. Read the labels! And~Drive right by Whole Foods! 

***This is the last paragraph in the article. I couldn’t agree with her more! There are so many resources out their that can help you to make healthy choices in every aspect of your life. You just have to do your homework. 

“Do your research and do the best that you can with what’s available given your resources.  Create a plan to provide better options in the future. Don’t go down that toxic trail laid out by Big Food without fighting, kicking, and screaming.”

See you here next week!

Spices of Life

“The history of spice is almost as old as human civilisation. It is a history of lands discovered, empires built and brought down, wars won and lost, treaties signed and flouted, flavours sought and offered, and the rise and fall of different religious practices and beliefs. Spices were among the most valuable items of trade in ancient and medieval times.

As long ago as 3500 BC the ancient Egyptians were using various spices for flavouring food, in cosmetics, and for embalming their dead. The use of spices spread through the Middle East to the eastern Mediterranean and Europe. Spices from China, Indonesia, India, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were originally transported overland by donkey or camel caravans. For almost 5000 years, Arab middlemen controlled the spice trade, until European explorers discovered a sea route to India and other spice producing countries in the East.”  The Spice Trader 

Most of us use spices every time we cook or bake without thinking about them. They are just a part of the recipe. Spices can add color & taste to your food but they can also be anti-inflammatory, help with nausea, have a calming affect, aid in digestion, & more. Spices are safe when used as intended, added to foods. Using them consistently on a daily basis in your meals will give you the medicinal benefits over a longer period of time.

Spices, at therapeutic doses taken as supplements, can have side effects & interact with medications. As an example, Allspice, taken as a supplement can interfere with blood clotting. Most of the spices sold as supplements at a therapeutic dose, have not been thoroughly researched and can potentially pose a danger to you.

Let’s look at the common spices in most of our cupboards: Allspice, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Pepper & Turmeric.

Spices should be checked every 6 months for freshness. Check the color and smell. Shelf life varies by spice & by quality. Spice Advice has information on how to check for freshness.

Allspice: The dried berry of the West Indian Allspice tree. The flavor reminds one of a blend of cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg.

Culinary: Allspice is a great addition in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used in cookies & cakes. The whole berry is used in mulled wine & marinades.

Medicinally: Allspice has been used traditionally for toothaches, muscle pain & as a germ killer. Its properties make it great for indigestion & intestinal gas.

Cardamom: Seeds are from a pod from a plant in the ginger family. It is indigenous to Sri Lanka & Southern India.

Culinary: We use it a lot in our smoothies. I love the scent & the taste with bananas. It is also used in Lassi & in Chai, wonderful drinks from India. You will also find it in puddings & in curries.

Medicinally: Cardamom stimulates the brain & heightens the senses. Chewing the seeds make it a valuable digestive aide.

Cayenne (Capsicum): Only the fruit, a red pepper, is used. Capsicum belongs to the Nightshade family. The name Cayenne is thought to come from its place of origin, the Cayenne region of French Guiana, on the North Atlantic coast of South America.

Culinary: Cayenne is not used for its flavor as much as it is for the color & warmth it brings to a dish. Having a dish with cayenne can bring warmth to the entire body from fingertips to toes! It can be very “hot”. Even though we love hot & spicy food, I always start with 1/2 of what is suggested in a recipe.

Medicinally: Cayenne in food assists in digestion. This spice is also used topically in products for joint pain. When used as a spice it is a circulatory system stimulant.

***Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, recommends cayenne for those with poor circulation. She says to put 1/8th teaspoon cayenne mixed with an equal amount of ginger powder in  your shoes to help warm your toes 🙂

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum & Cassia): Cinnamon is from the inner bark of fast growing trees which are native to Sri Lanka & India. This one is referred to as “true Cinnamon”. Cassia Cinnamon is from China & is what we commonly see on the spice shelves. They have similar properties.

Culinary:  Cinnamon enhances the flavor in both sweet & savory dishes. Cinnamon sticks add flavor & scent to pilafs, curries & mulled wine. It is one of the most commonly & traditionally used spices

Medicinally: Cinnamon is a well researched medicinal spice. It has warming & stimulating properties like Capsicum. It boosts energy, improves circulation, aides in clearing congestion & is a digestive aide. It can relieve gas, bloating and help with digesting fats. Cinnamon added to Ginger tea is very helpful for nausea & stomach cramps.

Cloves: The clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum, is from Indonesia. Its dried flower buds are used whole, powdered or in oil.

Culinary: Cloves are an ingredient in Chai tea along with Cardamom. It is commonly used with Cinnamon & Nutmeg to add additional flavor to baked goods such as cookies, cakes & Pumpkin Pie! Cloves are also added to meats, curries & marinades.

Medicinally: The clove is a strong antiseptic and the oil of clove can be used to relieve a toothache by rubbing it on the gum next to the tooth. Cloves used in foods aide in digestion & can relieve an upset stomach. It can be made into a tea to help with indigestion.

Cumin: Cumin seeds come from the fruit of a flowering plant, in the Apiaceae family, native of the Mediterranean area & India.

Culinary: Cumin is used in many cuisines. It is used in tomato-based & grain based dishes. You have probably used it in Mexican food & in Indian curries. It has a very strong fragrance and an “earthy” taste. I use it when making any bean dish. I use it along with turmeric.

Medicinally: A digestive aide, it relieves bloating and intestinal gas. This is why I use ground cumin or cumin seeds in bean recipes.

Garlic: There is some debate over where the use of garlic began. It is one of the worlds oldest cultivated crops; perhaps for more than 7,000 years.  I read that slaves building the Egyptian pyramids were given raw garlic. In Greece it was used to enhance the performance of athletes.

Culinary: I love garlic, it is my favorite herb in the kitchen. I use the cloves chopped into a vegetable recipe or my favorite is to roast the whole cloves with a root vegetable combination. You can also buy it pickled or even raw, stuffed into a green olive (my husbands favorite). It comes dried & powdered but I prefer fresh, raw garlic.

When my mother was late with dinner and my dad was due home from work, she would fry onions & garlic in oil to make the kitchen & house smell like she was busy with the meal! I have used this ruse many times 🙂

Medicinally: Garlic is the most versatile herbs in your cupboard and it is amazing medicinally. Too much garlic can cause gastric distress in some people so take care. In others it can relieve gastric irritation: diarrhea, indigestion, bloating & intestinal gas. Eating garlic will boost your immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells. It is used to treat sore throats in a tea or eaten raw.

In my research I found that studies have shown that the properties of garlic may be less potent but remain intact when cooked. It is being studies for the prevention of cancers.

***Dr. Low Dog suggests the following recipe at the first sign of a cold.

Tieraona’s Garlic: Soften garlic cloves by soaking or steeping. Then crush 2 small to medium cloves and put in a teacup. Pour 1 cup near-boiling water over the garlic & add 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Drink warm at the first sign of a cold.

Ginger: A rhizome, root, from Asia. It has been used as a spice for approximately 4,400 years.

Culinary: Ginger is very spicy & fragrant when used in dishes. Ginger powder is used in cookies (remember the wonderful ginger cookies?), cakes & other baked goods. I use ginger in stir-fries, soups and even in a smoothie! Recently I purchased a yellow ginger which had a milder flavor than the white.

Medicinally: Ginger is a very popular medicine and one of the oldest herbs used medicinally. It has many uses but the most popular is for nausea. Did your mother or grandmother give you Ginger-ale when you were queasy? It relieves nausea caused by pregnancy, chemo, cars, boats & planes! I have ginger candies in my car, purse, kayak & backpack! Not only does it help with nausea but it also relieves arthritis and joint pain (helps me during a long hike). Ginger tea can be made for nausea, congestion and as a pick me up. A very versatile plant.

***Ginger Tea: Grate, chop or slice about 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger root. Place it in a cup and add 8 ounces of brought to the boil water. Cover your cup & allow it to steep for 10 minutes. You can add honey to taste if needed.

Oregano: Origanum vulgare is a plant from the Mediterranean. It is also called Wild Marjoram. The leaves are used fresh, sold in sprigs or dried.

Culinary: I grow oregano in my herb garden and throw the leaves in everything from a stew to a salad. It is particularly good with tomato-based dishes. You will find it in a number of Italian dishes including Pizza! It goes hand in hand with Garlic in my house.

Medicinally: It has been used to treat anxiety, tension & insomnia. It is used as a digestive aide. You can add a few fresh leaves to the ginger tea for indigestion.

Pepper: The oldest, most widely used spice in the world. At one time it was as precious as gold & silver. The peppercorn is a dried fruit from a flowering vine~Piper Nigrum~ which is indigenous to southwest India.

Culinary: Black pepper is more fragrant than white pepper. It is used to flavor foods with its spicy taste.  It is also used to enhance the flavors of the food itself.

Medicinally: Pepper stimulates digestion, it is an anti-oxidant & has been used to relieve congestion. Pepper is said to enhance the bio-availability of Turmeric when used medicinally. You will notice that it is an ingredient in Golden/Turmeric Milk. Recipe below.

Turmeric: Also a rhizome like ginger. It is a native to India & South Asia. Curcumin is one of its major constituents.

Culinary: I sprinkle this spice on everything from eggs to rice to chili. It has a lovely yellow color and a pungent taste. It is sometimes referred to as the “poor-man’s Saffron”. Used in curries, rice & stews.

Medicinally: Turmeric is high in anti-oxidants, it is anti-inflammatory, and stimulates the immune system. It is used for arthritis, osteoarthritis and anti-inflammatory diseases such as cancer. It is also a digestive aide.

Turmeric is being researched for its properties in killing cancer cells in several types of cancer.

I have been asked about drinking “Golden Milk or Turmeric Milk” to treat inflammation. This is a traditional Ayurvedic healing drink for inflammation, arthritis and to support the immune system. Here is a simple recipe I put together from many sources.

***Golden/Turmeric Milk


1 cup milk or milk alternative such as Almond or Cashew milk
¼ – 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coconut, almond, or olive oil
Dash of ground black pepper
Honey to taste (optional)

  • Simply blend together in your blender until frothy.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon, cardamom or ginger on top of prepared milk

***In addition, I thought you might be interested in this wonderful recipe by herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar.

Medicinal Curry Blend

  • 1 ounce Corriander seeds
  • 1 ounce Cummin seeds
  • 1 ounce Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 ounce black Mustard seed
  • 1/2 ounce Chili pepper (Cayenne)
  • 1/2 ounce Fennel seeds
  • 1/2 ounce Ginger powder

Combine by grinding together into a powder & use in curry dishes.

Rosemary Gladstar combines 2-3 teaspoons of the powder with 1/4 of oil, I use Olive oil, in a saucepan and warms it until the herbs are fragrant ~a few minutes~then stores it in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of weeks.

To treat a cold add the mixture to Miso Soup. For digestion & sluggish bowel add a tablespoon to food such as rice.

Next time you are cooking, pay attention to the spices you are using. Think about their medicinal properties. I use turmeric because it is an anti-inflammatory. I add it to my food at every meal. I add it to eggs or to a smoothie for breakfast. At lunch it can be added to a sandwich or salad along with salt & my favorite lemon pepper. Dinner, I sprinkle it into whatever I am making. I keep a jar of candied ginger on the counter for indigestion & for joint pain. My family has always gone for the ginger first when feeling queasy or achy. 

Your favorite spices can be blended together in an empty spice jar. That way you are just a shake away from a healthy meal! 

See you here next week!


5 Medicinal Herbs for Your Windowsill

My sunny kitchen windowsill is getting crowded with pots of my favorite medicinal herbs. It is Spring, time to purchase them from garden centers or even from Natural Food stores. Garden centers, Jimbo’s, Whole Foods, & Trader Joe’s sell organic seeds & starts. Here are 5 of my favorites which can treat minor health challenges immediately.

Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Peppermint, & Lemon Balm are easy to grow in pots and can be used in cooking and for medicinal teas. Preparing & drinking a cup of tea continues to be a ritual in countries like Japan, India & in the United Kingdom. Collecting my herbs, preparing them & the tea mindfully has a calming effect all on its own. Sitting down with my cup of herbal tea adds to that state of calm or even bliss. Ahhhh….

To make herbal tea: Gather approximately one tablespoon of fresh, chopped leaves of the herb (1-2 teaspoon of dried leaves). Place them in a cup or tea pot and cover with 1 cup of water that has been brought to a boil. I steep mine covered for 10 minutes. Strain & enjoy! Simple & it smells so good! You can also combine the ones you need into one cup of healthy tea. For those of you taking medications, no worries, these teas will not interact with them. Drink a cup 2 or 3 times a day as needed.

***The following information is based on the use of the herb as a tea 2-3 times a day only. If symptoms persist then you should call your health provider. These herbs should not be used medicinally if pregnant or breast feeding.

I have added the scientific name to make sure you get the correct herb. Culinary or Garden sage is one of many Salvia’s. Peppermint is one of many mints. Not all the Salvia‘s or Mints have the same medicinal properties. Interesting to note that Salvia is part of the mint family! Make a list to take with you when buying the seeds or starts.

Garden or Culinary Sage (Salvia Officinalis), Part used: Leaves. Sage has been used for millennium. Its use was first recorded in AD 50-70 by the Greek physician Dioscorides. The name Salvia comes from the Latin Salvere which means “to be saved or healed”.

As a tea, Sage is used for inflammation of the mouth, throat & tonsils. It is one of the best remedies for sore throats, tonsillitis & even laryngitis. I use the tea as a gargle for sore throats. You may also want to add 1 tablespoon of salt to the tea for a sore throat. Gargle & spit it out. Use frequently during the day to ease the throat pain.

The tea can also be used for fevers, hot flashes & night sweats. Drink during the day & before bed.

Its antibacterial activity can ease gastric indigestion & gastroenteritis. Sage can be added to a pot of beans to relieve the “gassy” effects.

Well researched herb & safe to use. Research is being done on using Salvia Officinalis to improve mood & memory in both healthy adults and Adults with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis), Part used: Leaves.  The first recorded use of Rosemarinus Officinalis  was in the “Materia Medica”, written by Greek physician, Dioscordes, AD 50-70. In the language of plants, Rosemary means ~remembrance~.

Rosemary tea is used for memory & for improving your mood & concentration. Eases headaches & mild depression. It is also a good digestive aid. Rosemary helps keep blood vessels dilated which explains it’s uses.

I like this tea. It is like a “pick-me-up. I add thyme for an added benefit and for a refreshing drink. Adding peppermint gives you a great digestive aid tea.

Well researched herb & has a long history of safe use. 

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris), Part used: Leaf & flower. The Roman physician Pliny the Elder, AD 23-79, said that Thyme cures “aberrations of the mind”. The Romans grew Thyme for their Bees.                           

Thyme is used for coughs, congestion, and bronchitis. It can also be used for sore throats as a gargle.

Thyme is antispasmodic & an expectorant. This means that it not only calms coughs but helps you bring up the mucus! Here is a recipe for a wonderful cough syrup.

Dr. Low Dog’s Thyme Cough Syrup                                                                             4 Tablespoons of fresh Thyme                                                                                     1 teaspoon lemon juice                                                                                                   1 cup water                                                                                                                     1/4 cup raw honey (use maple syrup if for a child under 12 months of age, do not use honey for children under 12 months)                                                           

Pour near-boiling water over thyme and steep covered for 15 minutes. Strain. Add honey & lemon juice. Keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week.                          Children 12 months & older: take 1-2 teaspoons every 2-3 hours.                    Teens & Adults: take one to 2 tablespoon every 2-3 hours as needed.

Lemon Thyme (Thymus Citriodorus) is one of my favorites for tea and to cook with. It has the same medicinal properties of Thymus Officinalis.

Well researched & safe herb. Research is showing that Thyme has antiviral & antibacterial properties.

Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita), Part used: Leaf & flower.  Peppermint  was found in Egyptian tombs 1000 BC. It was used for flavoring and to improve digestion.          

Peppermint is the most famous herb used as a digestive aid. It is also the herb of choice for nausea & gas. I didn’t know this until I did additional research that peppermint tea is an antispasmodic. This means that it is a muscle relaxant & when used right after an attack of nausea or vomiting. It not only helps to relax the stomach, which is a muscle, but freshens your breath too.

Researchers show that it is a good tea to use with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), constipation and diarrhea. It is very soothing to the gastrointestinal system.

Its antispasmodic properties are probably the reason it is used to relieve tension headaches. I like to use peppermint oil in Tiger Balm when I have a headache. I rub the ointment on my temples. If it is a sinus headache, I also put a smear of the ointment under my nose. The tea relieves the nausea that comes along with some headaches.

Due to the menthol in peppermint, a cup of hot tea can clear a stuffy nose and ease congestion by thinning the mucus. You find peppermint in lozenges & steam inhalants for coughs.

Well researched herb. No side effects or reactions have been reported.

Lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis), Parts used: Leaf  Lemon Balm is mentioned in Turkey, Greece & Rome around AD 23-70. Pliny the Elder, wrote that lemon balm was used to attract bees; thus its name, melissa, which means honey & honey bee. It has also been called the ~Elixir of Life~ & the ~Gladdening Herb~.

Lemon Balm tea has calming, antispasmodic &  mild sedative properties and therefore is used for anxiety, mild insomnia, and tension headaches. It has been combined with chamomile for nervous exhaustion & for sleep. You will find it in many combination teas for sleep.

It is also known as a children’s remedy. Used with chamomile to relieve colic in babies and to aid in calming children.

Widely researched with no contraindications for use with children & the elderly.

All of these teas can be purchased ready to use. They can be found individually or in combinations. My favorite brands for medicinal teas are: Yogi Teas  & Traditional Medicinal Teas . Medicinal teas are safe to use in moderation during treatment. This means 2-3 cups a day. 

Here are a few of my favorite books to get you started if you have an interest in herbal preparations for your health. You can find them at the library as well as on Amazon.

  • Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide   by Rosemary Gladstar  ” Gladstar profiles 33 of the most common and versatile healing plants and then shows you exactly how to grow, harvest, prepare, and use them.”quiet
  • Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs & Natural Supplements                                 by Linda Skidmore-Roth RN, MSN, NP  ” Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs and Natural Supplements! Reviewed by nurses and herbalists alike, this authoritative resource presents herb and supplement profiles in a convenient, A-Z format for fast reference.” 

  • National Geographic’s Guide to Medicinal Herbs  “Because I have long worked to make accurate information on botanical remedies available to consumers as well as to doctors, pharmacists, and allied health professionals, I am delighted to see the appearance of the National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. This excellent guide is the work of a team of highly qualified botanical and medical experts, including two of my colleagues from the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. It offers reliable, up-to-date, practical information about 72 of the most important medicinal herbs.” –Andrew Weil, M.D., from the Foreword

Next week we will continue this theme with what you should have in your spice cabinet to use medicinally and why. Go make yourself a cup of herbal tea and relax. See you here next week……Mary