DIY Natural Cleaners

MHollander

MHollander

Spring cleaning is right around the corner. We are going to put nutrition aside this week to answer an email from our NUT, Beth. She asked me about making our own cleaning products, thus eliminating those toxic ingredients. I like this question because it is relatively easy to do with natural ingredients that you already have & are easy to find. 


If you prefer to buy your cleaning products but want them without all the toxic ingredients then EWG is the website for you.

The Environmental Working Group has always been my go-to for information regarding toxic ingredients in anything I use or consume. The labels on cleaning products are very confusing & difficult to decode. EWG has done that for us. Instead of looking through the ingredients list for anything “bad”, it is far better to understand what they are claiming. EWG’s Guide to Heallthy Cleaning: “Decoding the labels: Confused by the labels on cleaning products? EWG helps you sort facts from hype.”

For example:  “Active ingredients” in cleaning products are usually antimicrobial pesticides added to kill bacteria, viruses or molds. Avoid them – they’re hazardous chemicals, and you rarely need them to get your house clean.

Another example. We think of essential oils as being a natural, safe product. “Essential oils are plant extracts that emit distinct, often appealing scents. Some contain naturally occurring chemicals that can irritate skin, trigger allergic reactions or cause other toxic effects. Don’t assume that essential oils are safe simply because they come from plants. Approach them with the same safety questions you bring to other ingredients or products. When trying a new product containing an essential oil, always use a small amount at first to see if you have an allergic reaction. Never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin. Avoid using products that are old or that have been exposed to light, because some essential oils react with air and sunlight to produce new and sometimes more hazardous chemicals.”

On this same page is a search box for 2,500 products. You can type in a cleaning product & see how it is rated. Typing in Planet, a company that makes laundry detergent & dish soap you see that it gets a B. It goes on to tell you why it got a B. Dr. Bronner’s products get an A. Purex gets B’s & C’s. Try it out on some of the brands you use.

If you would like a list of products & their grades rather than looking them up one at a time go to this linkEWG’s Guide to Heallthy CleaningAt the top left is a Green Banner that says EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. It is a drop down menu. Click on the cleaner you are interested in & you will get a list, with their grades, beginning with the highest rated products.


Most of my cleaning supplies I have made. Some, detergent & dish soap, I buy. When I make them myself, I like simple & fast. White Vinegar, Baking Soda, Borax & salt have been used for cleaning for generations. You can buy them in large containers at drug stores & markets. Here are some of my favorites recipes.

Oven/Pot/Pan cleaner: Make a paste with baking soda & water. Apply it to gunky area liberally. Sprinkle white vinegar onto the paste. It will foam. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Wipe & you have a clean oven or pan. You can add salt to the paste & skip the vinegar. Let it sit 30 minutes, then scrub. Works well.

All purpose cleaner: 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. I use this to clean counters, floors, stove tops, cupboards, doors & walls. It can also be used on carpet, but test it first in case it bleaches out the color. Here in the Pacific Northwest, mold & mildew is a problem. We now have a dehumidifier which has limited the mold & mildew in the house. That combined with using this spray, I no longer have a problem.

Window cleaner: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Bright & shiny windows.

Bathroom tiles: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water. Spray onto tiles & shower curtain to get rid of mildew. You can use this to clean the tiles as a preventative measure all year.

Keep your drains clog free: Place 1/4-1/2 cup of baking soda into your drain. Follow this with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar. It will foam up. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Then clear the drain with 2-3 cups boiling water. If you do this once a month you won’t get that buildup around the pipes. Great preventative method. I have also used this to unclog drains. 


This is my favorite reference for ingredients & recipes. They also have a printable version at this link… A Green Clean: Homemade Cleaners to Detox Your Home from Mother Earth Living, by Kim Erickson
July/August 2009

Baking Soda: A truly multitasking cleaner, baking soda is a perfect substitute for cleaning powders that scour sinks and tubs without scratching. It’s also great for wiping down and deodorizing the fridge. Combined with an equal amount of vinegar, baking soda can freshen drains and prevent them from clogging. The overflow hole in our bathroom sink in Encinitas was emitting a horrible odor a few years ago. I used the Baking Soda & Vinegar in the hole then rinsed it. Odor was gone!

Borax: Combining equal amounts of white vinegar and borax will banish mold and mildew from hard surfaces. This natural mineral can also clean your toilet. Pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet bowl and let it sit for a few hours before scrubbing to eliminate stains and odor.

Distilled White Vinegar: This pantry staple cuts grease, eats away lime deposits and destroys odors. Because of its neutralizing properties, white vinegar is also good for washing windows, sanitizing kitchen counters and shining bathroom fixtures. Simply dilute 1 part vinegar in 4 parts water. A natural antibacterial because of its high acid content, vinegar is an effective alternative to caustic cleaners on toilets and floors.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Typically found in the medicine cabinet, this disinfectant can also be used as an effective bleach alternative in the laundry room. Because it’s also a powerful oxidizing agent, it works especially well on food, soil, plant, blood and other organic stains. Just make sure to spot test in a discreet area because, like bleach, hydrogen peroxide may lighten fabrics. For each average-size load of whites, add 8 ounces of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide after you have filled the washer with hot water.

Salt: Perfect for cleaning grungy ovens, this natural abrasive is also great for soaking up fresh carpet stains such as red wine, coffee or ink. Pour salt on the wet stain. Let dry, then vacuum. I always forget to use salt on carpet stains. I have a stain right now that I will try it on 🙂

Vegetable Oil (Castile) Soap: This natural soap is great for floors and all-purpose cleaning when combined with vinegar, borax or even warm water. For an all-purpose cleaner, add 1⁄2 teaspoon of soap to either 2 cups of water or to the “All-Purpose Cleaner and Disinfectant” recipe below. For floors, combine 2 teaspoons of soap with 3 gallons of water. Make sure to rinse well to remove any dulling residue. Dr. Bronners is a castile soap.

Washing Soda: This old-fashioned laundry booster cuts through tough grease on grills, broiler pans and ovens. Because washing soda is a strong alkaline, it’s perfect for tackling dirty linoleum floors. But because it’s caustic and strong enough to strip wax and peel paint, wear gloves when using—and use sparingly. Adding just 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of washing soda to 32 ounces of hot water will tackle the toughest grease. Washing soda is soda ash. It is not edible. EWG gives it an A. It is very caustic, wear gloves when using. It can be purchased at most grocery & big box stores. Look in the laundry detergent aisle. Arm & Hammer makes one & it gets an A from EWG.

Lemons: Lemon’s citric acid content cuts stubborn grease and makes your home smell fresh. Lemon juice is also a natural bleach, especially when combined with the sun. Freshen cutting boards by rubbing a cut lemon over the surface. This is especially effective for banishing fish odors. Undiluted lemon juice can also be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. It works on both plastic & wooden cutting boards. If you have been cutting up garlic, add salt to the lemon & scrub the board. You can also use salt & lemon to wash the garlic smell from your hands. As teenagers, my younger brother & I surfed, not very well, but we did try. He had light brown hair & wanted it blond. I poured grapefruit & lemon juice on his head & he laid out in the sun for hours. Presto! Blond sticky hair! 🙂

Homemade Cleaners: You can use your essential oils with these! They not only make them smell fresh, they are also anti-viral & anti-bacterial.

All-purpose cleaner and disinfectant:  Just as effective as popular antibacterial cleansers, this formula is perfect for kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
 
2 cups hot water
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon washing soda (similar to, but more caustic than, baking soda)
15 drops tea tree essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a reusable spray bottle and shake well. To use, spray on surfaces, especially cutting boards, countertops and toilets. Wipe with a dry cloth.

Lemongrass dust cloths: Whether you’re using microfiber cloths or old cloth diapers, these do-it-yourself dusters offer the convenience of disposable furniture wipes without the guilt of contributing to the landfill. Make several dustcloths at a time.
 
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
¼ teaspoon lemongrass essential oil
Dustcloths or rags
Freshly cut lemon peel

Combine water, vinegar and essential oil in large bowl. Soak dustcloths in the solution for 30 minutes. Squeeze out cloths, leaving them slightly damp. Lay cloths flat and place a couple pieces of lemon peel on each one. Fold each cloth in half or thirds and roll up. Place each cloth in a glass jar along with an extra piece of lemon peel. Cap tightly with a screw lid. To use, unfold cloth and discard peel. Dust as usual. Launder dustcloths when dirty and infuse again with essential oil and lemon peel.

Creamy nonabrasive cleaner:  Perfect for acrylic and fiberglass surfaces, this smooth cleanser won’t scratch tubs, stovetops or laminate countertops.
 
¼  cup borax 
Vegetable oil-based liquid soap (also known as castile soap)
½  teaspoon lemon essential oil

In a small bowl, combine borax with just enough liquid soap to create a thick paste. Add essential oil and blend well. To use, scoop a small amount of cleaner onto a damp sponge. Scrub surface and rinse wel

Pre-vacuum carpet freshener:  This fragrant odor eliminator will leave your home smelling fresh without posing a danger to pets or children.

1 cup dried lavender flowers
2 cups baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rose geranium essential oil

Crush lavender flowers and mix with baking soda, breaking up any clumps. Add essential oils and blend well. To use, sprinkle on carpets. Wait 30 minutes, then vacuum as usual. Store leftovers in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Sometimes I just strew dried lavender onto the carpet & leave it there until the next time I vacuum. Smells lovely. I also hang a muslin bag full of dried lavender & dried lemon grass from the door knobs. Wonderful room freshener. 


If you enjoy working with essential oils or just like aromatherapy, here is an article about how to use them in natural cleaning. 

Natural Cleaning Recipes with Essential Oils  Use these easy natural cleaning recipes for a home that’s free of germs, grime and toxic chemicals.” Here is an example: 

Herbal Disinfectant:  A super disinfectant formula that’s incredibly easy to make

2 cups hot water
10 drops thyme essential oil: a natural disinfectant.
1/4 cup washing soda

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray on surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.


Now you are ready for spring cleaning without the worry of toxins. For even more information, explore the links below under Resources.


I would like to end with a recipe for Hand Sanitizer that I found on Live Simply: DIY  I keep a bottle in the car & a small spray bottle of it in my backpack. 

DIY Hand Sanitizer by Live Simply 

Ingredients

  • 3 TB aloe vera Get pure aloe vera. Check the labels!
  • 2 TB witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, if using alcohol reduce to 1 TB We only use witch hazel in our house. It is a great wound cleaner.
  • 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil You can get this in a small bottle or you can open capsules if you have them.
  • 16 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 8 drops lavender essential oil

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. To use the hand sanitizer store in a small jar or a squeeze tube. I also use these tubes for homemade toothpaste. Note: This recipe will make 2 fl oz (one tube.)


Beth also asked about making her own beauty products. That will be next weeks topic. Until then…Mary 🙂


Resources

Cheese

We haven’t discussed cheese before. Probably because it is dairy & we have labeled all dairy as “evil”. Last year this changed with the new dietary guidelines for fat. Fat Updateour post from last June, addresses these guidelines. The bottom line is that fat is a necessary, healthy part of your diet. This, for most people, includes cheese.

Old ways Mediterranian pyramid

 

 

Take a look at the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Cheese is near the top. “Moderate portions daily or weekly”. A serving of cheese varies depending on the type of cheese. Generally it is 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese. Hard cheese, like cheddar would be the size & shape of four die. 

 

Cheese-Graph-2-copy

I found the above chart from FoodandHealth.comunications  It gives you a snapshot of the nutritional values of common cheeses. I think having individually packed string cheese on hand for a protein snack, 8 grams, is a good idea. They are portable too 🙂

The Health Benefits of Cheese: Berkeley Wellness  : Bottom line: Cheese can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation—an ounce or two a day is reasonable, but watch out for the calories. Like all dairy foods, cheese provides calcium and protein, along with some vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, zinc, and other nutrients. A downside is that most cheeses are high in sodium (100 to 300 milligrams or more per ounce). But compare nutrition labels, since products vary a lot in sodium, calories, and calcium, depending on the type and serving size. Low-sodium versions are available (though less tasty). Strong and savory cheeses have more flavor so you can use less. A cheese slicer will allow you to cut very fine slices to make a little go a longer way.” 

Cheese is like any other food item, you need to read the label! “Real”, or “natural cheese” is healthy. “Processed cheese” is not. Velveeta is an example of processed cheese. When I was growing up, my only contact with Velveeta cheese was when my grandfather bought it for fish bait; it was always in his tackle box. I had no idea, until I lived in Georgia, & Kentucky, that people ate it! 🙂  American cheese is another processed cheese. Go for “real” or “natural” cheese.

Another good article about Cheese is from Dr. Mercola’s site. Full-Fat Cheese Has Many Health Benefits, Including Weight Loss: Cheese has long been demonized for its saturated fat content, but as the saturated fat myth has come under increasing scrutiny, this food may soon experience a revival as well. Note that in this article he talks about sugar, & trans-fats being the culprit, not saturated fat.


MHollander

MHollander

 

Cheese is like fine wine, fine chocolates or gourmet coffee! You enjoy it in moderation. A pizza place near us serves macaroni & cheese as the topping for one of their pizzas. We tried it. Heart attack waiting to happen! Never again!

 Cheese.com is an awesome site. It lists 1,750 different kinds of cheese from 74 countries! You can look up cheese by name, type, country, milk, texture & color! My all-time favorite is Gorgonzola: “Gorgonzola is one of the world’s oldest blue-veined cheeses. The Cheese is mainly produced in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, Gorgonzola. Unskimmed cow’s milk is used while preparing the cheese. Generally it takes three to four months to attain full ripeness.” I love it no matter how it is served! The strong flavor means I use only a small amount….hmmm 🙂


This site also has a list of Vegetarian Cheese. Cheese can be made with or without animal rennet. It is used to curdle the milk to form cheese. You can also find cheese that is made from plant based rennet. Read the labels! Some bacteria that is used for vegetarian cheese is GMO. Choosing organic vegetarian cheese will eliminate that problem. I thought the process to make soft cheese also made it a vegetarian choice. Not true. This site really helps.


What about Vegans?  One Green Planet has recipes for you to make your own cheese: These 25 Vegan Cheeses Will Make You Quit Dairy Forever as does 12 Vegan Cheese Recipes That Will Change Your Life . They both have wonderful recipes but they are time consuming. The Easy Garlic & Herb Vegan Cheese  takes 25 hours!

One Green Planet also has an article about vegan cheese brands: Vegan Cheese is Better Than Ever: Try These 11 Brands Vegan cheese has evolved into a much better product over the years. They melt well & they are good sliced on sandwiches. They are processed. Treeline Nut Cheese intrigues me. Great ingredients & not really processed like American Cheese 🙂 Here is an example: Classic Aged Nut Cheese: Tangy, slightly smoky, firm yet creamy. Slice it, grate it over pasta or stir it into risotto. Ingredients: Cashew nuts, filtered water, hickory smoked salt, vegan lactic acid, L. Acidophilus. I am looking forward to trying it. This line of cheese is available at Whole Foods & Ralph’s. You can find a store near you on the website. Let me know what you think of it.


Each person has a different relationship with food. I love cheese, so I don’t keep it in the house. We have it on special occasions; when we have guests or when we go out to a dinner. I will get joint pain from eating a lot of cheese during the week. I also notice that some cheese causes me to have puffy eyes & congestion. Mozzarella, Parmesan, & Swiss don’t affect me.  I also get a headache from yellow cheese. It is the coloring that causes it. When I buy cheddar, I only use white cheddar. Note your reaction to all foods, but especially to dairy products. Another reason to keep a food diary 🙂


Take away the “evil” label & enjoy a serving of cheese & fruit for lunch, a pick-me-up or for desert. Until next week…Mary 🙂


Resources

January Nutrition Nuggets

MHollander

MHollander

 

While researching for our weekly Blog posts, I always come across nuggets of information that I want to share with you. Usually they don’t fit into the topic at hand. I have decided to save them until I have several & share them in one post. This weeks nutrition nuggets are varied in subjects: salads, lentils, coffee & chemo-brain to much more & not in any particular order. Oh, and take a look at the recipe at the end of the post…YUM!


I liked this idea of Salad Dumpers: Nutrition WOW . I do this too but Dawn Jackson Blatner RD, has some ideas that I hadn’t thought of. So I buy salads kits all. the. time. I LOVE the ease of just dropping everything in a bowl & then being done.

The issues….
– expensive
– too many calories (yikes)
– often times CRAP ingredients This link is to a printable list she has of CRAP ingredients.

Let’s start making our own easy CRAP-free salad kits. Let me introduce you to…Salad Dumpers. A simple way to make a quick 100-calorie side salad for any meal like a sandwich, pizza, soup, etc. I like these ideas for a quick sandwich at lunch or even for dinner.

1) COMBINE your favorite salad toppings, 100 calories-ISH per salad.
2) STORE topping combos in clear containers in the fridge.
3) DUMP! When you want a salad, DUMP toppings on lots of pre-cleaned greens. I buy boxes of fresh organic spinach & mixed greens during the winter when our garden isn’t producing. Very convenient.

Try these topping combos for your Salad Dumpers:
Each combo below is about 200 calories, great for 2 salads

Roasted butternut squash cubes (1 cup)
Shaved Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
Red wine vinegar (drizzle) Balsamic is good too, or flavored vinegar’s.

Pomegranate seeds (3/4 cup)
Crumbled blue cheese (1 ounce) Crumbled Feta is my favorite.
Orange wedge (squeeze on)

Honey-baked almonds (1 tsp honey/23 almonds)
Roasted broccoli (1 cup)
Lemon wedge (squeeze on)

Notes:
– Salad Dumpers last 4-5 days in the fridge.
– Containers that are 1/5-2 cups & clear work best so you’ll see the ingredients instead of forgetting about them. I use small canning jars that hold 2 cups. You can buy plastic screw on lids for them. Makes it easier to get into them 🙂

“DUMPERS ROCK! xoxo” Go to her website link above to see all of her ideas. Here is the link to a printable graph of them. 

I would add the following:

  • Hard boiled egg chopped
  • Nuts & seeds: remember that pumpkin seeds are high in protein!
  • Sprouts: these can be purchased in the produce section.
  • Olives
  • Artichoke hearts: I buy them in jars, water packed.
  • Water chestnuts: I buy them in jars, water packed.

A legume that I use a lot of is lentils. I ordinarily cook them in an Indian dish or just plain to accompany a meal. I received this great list from OldWay’s of new ways to use them.

Lentils (click for a printable chart) are small but nutritional powerhouses of the legume family. A half-cup of cooked lentils has a whopping 9 grams of protein, more than nearly any other legume, and 8 grams of fiber. Plus, compared to other kinds of dried beans, lentils have the added advantage of being quick and easy to prepare. Although they should be rinsed and checked for dirt and debris before cooking, there is no need to presoak them. Three varieties of lentils are most widely available: green, brown, and red. The green have a nutty flavor and will stay firm when cooked. Brown lentils soften during cooking, and risk becoming mushy if overcooked. Red lentils are the quickest to cook, and will lose their shape, turning a yellow-orangey color when cooked. The different types make lentils a versatile addition to your diet!

1. Put cooked lentils in your salad! You can also “pop” your lentils by placing cooked lentils in a skillet with a small amount of oil until they plump, or pop open, and toast slightly. This gives them a crunchy texture that contrasts nicely over greens.

2. Construct creative lentil side dishes. Lentils work well with a variety of flavor profiles, so you can take a side dish in a multitude of directions. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice to pair with chicken, or take a French twist by adding cloves in a sauce of Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar to pair with salmon.

3. You can feature lentils as the main course. Replace meat with lentils for a vegetarian Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie.

4. Soups, stews and chili are ideal plates for lentils. You could make a spicy, Mexican infused chili with lime and cilantro, you could take a Moroccan twist on vegetarian stew with cumin and garam masala notes, or try a lighter Asian flavor soup with hints of lemongrass and ginger in coconut milk.

5. Add lentils to your stir-fry. You can use lentils as your protein for your favorite stir-fry combinations, or as a base instead of the usual accompaniment of rice.

6. Try lentils as a filling for Stuffed Peppers. Combine cooked quinoa, lentils, cashews and spices like thyme and basil to fill bell peppers for a unique vegetarian take on a classic.

7. Use lentils as a meat replacement in tacos. Simmer lentils in a combination of cayenne pepper, cumin and paprika to create a delicious spicy filling for your tacos, or with chipotle peppers and adobo for a more smoky flavor.

8. You can even have lentils for breakfast! Cooked lentils can be added to baked breakfast bars or muffins. Uncooked lentils can be ground up to create a protein-packed powder to add to breakfast smoothies.

9. Make your own South Indian bread with lentils. Urad Dal bread is made using urad dal lentils (which can be found online or from an Indian store) and is a dense, moist sandwich bread. Dosas are another type of South Indian food, which uses the urad dal lentils to form wide, thin crepes.

10. Sprout lentils! Sprouting lentils is a simple process that can be done with any variety as long as they are whole (not split or dal). Rinse your lentils, then soak them for about 8-12 hours. Drain your lentils, rinse again and place in a large jar filling about 1/3 of the space (remember they are going to grow!). Cover the opening of the jar with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Twice a day rinse the lentils and drain through the cloth, making sure there is no puddle in the jar. After about 4-5 days you’ll see the little green leaf emerge and they’ll be ready to harvest.

11. Use lentils as a meat substitute in your favorite pasta sauce. Whip up a veggie-packed lentil and mushroom ragu with bell peppers and onions, or take a twist on a classic Stroganoff.

12. Lentils are great additions to veggie burgers. Cooked lentils combined with cooked quinoa, rolled oats and spices make flavorful, protein-pack

I like to use the green lentils in place of split peas in soup. Have you noticed that they are also in 13 Bean Soup mixes?


Sorghum is the new Quinoa in 2017, according to several newsletters I have received. I cooked some for dinner this evening. It takes about 50 minutes to cook on the stove top so I decided to do it in the slow cooker instead: 1 cup rinsed sorghum in 3 cups of water on high for 4 hours, mine took 3 hours. We enjoyed the taste & texture. I used it in place of rice with roasted veggies. I will be adding this to my grains that I use. Very tasty.

I posted about Ancient Grains last August, 2016. Here is what we learned about Sorghum from that post…

Sorghum: Gluten free. 1 cup dry sorghum: Protein: 22 grams, & fiber: 12 grams. It is high in  niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, magnesium, iron, calcium, & potassium.

Oldways, Whole Grain Council: “Ask a hundred people if they’ve ever eaten sorghum and chances are, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. However, sorghum, a cereal grain, is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world, largely because of its natural drought tolerance and versatility as food, feed and fuel. In Africa and parts of Asia, sorghum is primarily a human food product, while in the United States it is used mainly for livestock feed and in a growing number of ethanol plants. However, the United States also has seen food usage on the rise, thanks to the gluten-free benefits of sorghum for those with celiac disease.”

I bought a bag of sorghum & tried popping it. It takes awhile to get it popping & you have to shake it frequently. Make sure you use a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan. It looked like tiny popped corn; smelled & tasted like it too. Not sure it was worth the effort other than it was a fun thing to try 🙂 Popped sorghum is a popular snack in India. 

Recipe Links:


Always welcome news...Caffeine may counter age-related inflammation This is a very good read. “A chronic inflammatory process that occurs in some, but not all, older people may trigger cardiovascular problems, a new Stanford study shows. Part of the solution might be found in a cup of coffee.”….“More than 90 percent of all noncommunicable diseases of aging are associated with chronic inflammation,” said the study’s lead author, David Furman, PhD, a consulting associate professor at the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection. More than 1,000 papers have provided evidence that chronic inflammation contributes to many cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and even depression, he said. It’s also well-known that caffeine intake is associated with longevity,” Furman said. “Many studies have shown this association. We’ve found a possible reason for why this may be so.” I am so loving this study! 

I started thinking about whether coffee is good for “chemo-brain”. I found this intriguing article by Kathy-Ellen Krups, RN: Coffee, breast cancer and chemo brain  After breast cancer treatment and because of the fatigue and inability to focus, I started having a cup of coffee daily in the afternoon to help “perk” me up. It worked! Coffee was the drug I needed to get me to the end of the day. I still don’t drink it in the morning, I have plenty of energy then, but by 11:00 a.m. and later, I start sniffing it out. Here’s the good news for all of us coffee drinkers: Coffee is a stimulant and it turns out that it is a good treatment option for chemo brain.” Read the rest of the article for more information. I didn’t find any definitive studies for coffee & chemo brain, but having a cup to help with focus sounds like a great idea. Moderation 🙂


Another headline that caught my eye was: Calorie Restriction Diet Found To Extend Monkey Life By Years: Will It Work On Humans Too? “The practice of restricting calories has often been wrapped in controversy — and now a new set of findings reveal that it helps monkeys live healthier, longer lives. A long-running monkey trial concluded that calorie restriction made them live around three years longer than usual, translating to about nine years in humans.

While a calorie-restricted diet may not be the right fit for everyone, better understanding the mechanisms behind its potential benefits may lead to anti-aging solutions in the future, according to Julie Mattison of the National Institute on Aging.” 

My favorite quote from this article was: Brian Delaney, who chairs the Calorie Restriction Society and practicing calorie restriction for over two decades now, said the dietary restriction already comes easy for him. For others, however, it could mean very precise planning of meals, and it may not necessarily be all that helpful.”

“I’m not at all certain that people who are a healthy body weight should restrict to some emaciation level. Life might seem longer, but it wouldn’t necessarily be longer,” explained aging expert Steve Austad from the University of Alabama.’ Cackle!

Being on a plant based diet lowers your calorie intake but fills you up! Another plug for the Mediterranean & vegetarian diet.


The last nugget I want to share is this wonderfully easy, nutritious, pancake! The recipe is from: Everyday Belle 

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Prep Time: Cook Time: Serves: 1-2

Ingredients
  • 6 oz of your favorite Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • scant ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
Instructions
  1. Open the yogurt container and stir the yogurt until it’s smooth and creamy. Crack an egg over the yogurt and stir to combine leaving. The resulting mixture should be pale yellow in color and have a few lumps here and there.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda.
  3. Pour yogurt/egg mixture into the bowl with the flour and baking soda. Stir to combine. The batter will be extremely thick.
  4. Spoon the batter onto a sprayed griddle or pan heated to medium-high. I usually make four big pancakes, but you could also make 8 smaller ones.
  5. Flip the pancakes when they start to bubble a bit on the surface. Cook until golden brown on both sides and serve with butter, syrup, fruit, Nutella….anything! Enjoy!

Notes: For lower-calorie Greek yogurt pancakes, use nonfat yogurt and an egg white instead of the whole egg. Equally delicious and easy to prepare.


 Have a great, healthy week!…Mary 🙂 

Toaster Oven Cuisine!

I have a terrible family reputation for killing toasters. Lets just say buttering the bread first was a bad idea as was spraying the toaster with bug spray when there was an ant in it. I was young. 🙂 So…I was banned from even having one in the house & was not allowed to use other peoples either. Enter the wonderfully versatile Toaster Oven. I haven’t killed one yet. 

What I didn’t realize is there are a lot of recipes out there for meals made in a toaster oven. You can even buy baking pans, muffin pans & cookie sheets in a small size to fit in them. Our NUT Elf, Suzi, sent me a great link to toaster oven cooking. This triggered my research mode & my sharing urge! Let’s look at cooking in that big thing on your counter.


There are many websites that compare using a microwave to using a toaster oven. Some favor the microwave & some favor the toaster oven. I have never liked using a microwave oven because to me the food tastes “funny”. I had one about 28 years ago & only used it to heat water. I replaced it after a few months with a toaster oven. I am not going to debate the research on the microwave oven. It is a personal choice. This post is just about the toaster ovens versatility.


You can pay as much as $600+ or as little as $30 for a toaster oven. Mine is a BLACK+DECKER TO1303SB 4-Slice Toaster Oven, Includes Bake Pan, Broil Rack & Toasting Rack, Stainless Steel/Black Toaster Oven.  I paid $35 for it 4 years ago. It is the perfect size for us & for our counter. I use it mostly for toasting bread, muffins or heating corn tortillas. My husband “toasts” slices of tofu or tempeh for his sandwich. He also makes nachos in it for a snack. 

Toaster Ovens come on sale frequently. Keep your eye out for a bargain. You can probably find a good one at a second hand store. The other reason I like them is because they are easy to clean. Takes me just a few minutes a week. Another positive is that you can use it instead of the oven when making a quick snack, saving on utility bills.


This is the link that started it all: KILLER TOASTER OVEN APPETIZERS THAT ARE SURPRISINGLY HEALTHY. As Suzi pointed out, these can be main meals when cooking for one or two people. 

  • SPICY CHICKPEA EDAMAME SALAD PITAS “These Spicy Chickpea Edamame Salad Pitas take less than 15 minutes to make with endless ways to customize them. Each pita is filled with a mashed chickpeas salad made with subtly sweet edamame, diced celery, green onions, sun-dried tomatoes, creamy yogurt and spicy Sriracha.” This recipe, as is, has 23 grams of protein per serving! What a great small meal or main meal this is. If you prefer not to use the edamame, then substitute peas or another legume. This is a recipe that you can customize easily…my favorite kind! It is served with pita bread warmed in the toaster oven.
  • Toaster Oven Veggie Nachos: Love this one! Black beans & cut up veggies, yum! Suzi told me that she added a little more cheese. She said, “they are surprisingly filling, easy to make & quick.” 
  • Balsamic Asparagus & Hummus Toast: I go crazy during Asparagus season. So much so, my husband has planted an asparagus garden just for me. Takes 3 years for the first one 🙂 Worth the wait.

Every single recipe is healthy & looks so tasty. Go to the site to see the others. Thank you Suzi!


Dinner Made Easy: 6 Dishes Cooked in a Toaster Oven to Try Tonight. This is the recipe that stood out for those of you who eat chicken.

Herb Roasted Chicken Tenders: “You’re never too old to enjoy chicken tenders for dinner! Celebrity chef Eric Ripert shares this quick and easy meal with Today. Herbes de Provence lend the dish its flavorful character. It’s savory and delicious — particularly when served alongside a sweet honey Dijon medley for dipping. This recipe takes 20 minutes to complete and yields 2 servings.”

7 ounces chicken tenders

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon herbes de Provence

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Directions: Preheat toaster oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle half of the olive oil onto the toaster oven tray. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.

Place the chicken in a single layer on the tray and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the chicken. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until cooked through. Stir together Dijon mustard and honey. Serve the chicken tenders with mustard on the side.

Another recipe that you can use to add to salads or serve as is. I think this would make a good “grab & go” source of protein when you need a snack or lunch on the fly.


10 Toaster Oven Meals Made in Minutes: This is a slide show plus recipes. The ones that begged to be shared are:  

  • Cinnamon Honey Bananas make a delicious breakfast as well as a great way to move those fast-ripening bananas. Kids will think it’s a dessert — it’s that tasty.” This is a good pick-me-up for the afternoon.
  • Tuna Melts are the ultimate comfort food — perfect on chilly winter afternoons or as a light dinner on a summer evening. Use the cheese of your choice and your melty meal will be ready in minutes.”
  • If you’re craving a Portabello Mushroom Burger but don’t feel like firing up the grill, you can make one indoors. This recipe includes a yummy pesto topping to make the most of your fresh basil. Yum! I make these when I can find Portabello mushrooms! 
  • For you salmon lovers: Heart-smart Pesto Salmon can be prepared in the toaster oven under the broiler in no time. Top it with pesto and your family will think they’re dining in a fancy restaurant. 

The more recipes I look at the more excited I get about trying them out. I love healthy, fast, meals. Gives me more time to relax, read a book or crochet!


60 Meals You Didn’t Know You Could Make in a Toaster Oven Yes, 60 meals! They are placed in categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks & Sides, & Desserts. This site is excellent for coming up with small meals. Some of the recipes like cookies & biscuits, make just 1 or 2 servings. Definitely worth exploring. Here are a few just to give you an example.

  • Single Peanut Butter Cookie You know that time after dinner, when you simply have to have something sweet? When you’d rather not bake up an entire batch, turn to this single-serve recipe flavored with maple syrup, apple sauce, peanut butter, and vanilla.” This recipe makes 1 or 2 cookies!
  • Almond Flour Biscuits These savory biscuits have more protein than their more average counterparts. The recipe makes just two biscuits—perfect for snacks or to accompany a dinner for two.” 
  •  Roasted Baby Potatoes While whole sweet potatoes may take close to an hour in the toaster oven, these little suckers only require about 25 minutes. All you need are potatoes, a little salt and pepper, some olive oil, and herbs of your liking (this recipe suggests rosemary and thyme).” You can cube tofu or tempeh & add it to the mix. They come out perfect & slightly crunchy. 
  •  Baked Sole and Asparagus This baked fish gets a healthy makeover by using fewer breadcrumbs, a little bit of Parmesan cheese, and reduced fat mayo. Asparagus (full of vitamin K!) can also bake in the toaster oven.”
  • Baked Tofu This is a super versatile lunch. Instead of battling a block of jiggly tofu in a skillet, toss it in the toaster. Press out some of the liquid first for firmer slices, and choose your favorite marinade. Cube the tofu and cook it a little longer for a bread-less crouton alternative for salads or serve it in a whole-wheat wrap with greens and julienned veggies.” I buy extra firm in a vacuum package. Cutting them up in cubes lends to many possible ways of using them.
  •  Hard “Boiled” Eggs Skip the boiling water and cracked shells and pop eggs directly onto the toaster oven (keep the shells on!) for hard baked eggs.  And go ahead, keep the yolk: Studies show whole eggs may not be as unhealthy as we once thought.” This sounds interesting! You can also break the egg into a ramekan, add veggies & cheese, and bake.

This is perfect for those of you who are experiencing a loss of appetite during & after treatment. Eating small meals, and grab & go snacks, frequently during the day will work better than the traditional 3 meals. By eating 6 to 8 snacks/meals a day you will take in more calories. The toaster oven is also wonderful for re-heating food: pizza, take outs, sandwiches, leftovers & more.

I enjoyed researching this post. Such fun & easy ways to make those small meals. Until next week….Mary 🙂


Resources

New Year, New Diet Resolutions!

MHollander

MHollander

Each new year I post the “Best Diet” list from U.S.News. “A panel of health experts, including nutritionists and specialists in diabetes, heart health, human behavior and weight loss, reviewed detailed assessments prepared by U.S. News of 38 diets. The experts rated each diet in seven categories, including short- and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety and nutrition.” This year I want to look at the top three overall, the easiest & healthiest to follow & how some of the ”  fad  ~popular diets” fared. At the end of the post, under Resources, are additional articles for you to read.


The top three, Dash, Mediterranean & MIND, are consistently rated the healthiest way to eat. This year Mediterranean scored #2. Here is a reminder of what each diet is about. Click on the name of the diet to see their scores, get a very detailed overview, health & nutrition, recipes, do’s & don’ts, along with experts reviews. 

  1. DASH DietDASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes and role in supporting heart health. Though obscure, it beat out a field full of better-known diets.” DASH is a very good diet to follow. 

  2. Mediterranean Diet: With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other healthy fare, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. And experts’ assessments of it were resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors. I don’t think you need me to comment on this one 😉

  3. MIND DietThe MIND diet takes two proven diets ­­– DASH and Mediterranean – and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically affect brain health. It made an impressive debut to the 2016 rankings, shooting up to second place overall, tying with the TLC diet. It’s a healthy, sensible plan with science behind it. The MIND diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published online February 2015. Morris’ team followed the food intake of 923 Chicago-area seniors. Over 4.5 years, 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The longer people had followed the MIND diet patterns, the less risk they appeared to have. Even people who made “modest” changes to their diets – who wouldn’t have fit the criteria for DASH or Mediterranean – had less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study found the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by about 35 percent for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53 percent for those who adhered to it rigorously.”  This diet is for those of you who are ok with doing it yourself. It has guidelines like the Mediterranean diet but not as regimented as the DASH. 

The easiest diets to follow; three tied for #1. Look familiar? 🙂

  •  #1 Mediterranean Diet (tie) 🙂
  •  #1 Weight Watchers Diet (tie) Even though they changed how their point system works this year, it is still the easiest, healthiest diet to follow for losing & maintaining your weight.
  •  #1 MIND Diet (tie)  “You may lower your risk of mental decline with this new hybrid of two balanced, heart-healthy diets – even without rigidly sticking to it – early research suggests. The main complaint with this diet is that your pretty much on your own for recipes & building a meal. 

What about some of the “fad~popular diets” from 2016, how did they rate? I am adding comments from a great article: What the science says about every popular diet — and whether they can work for you 

#31 in Best Diets Overall: Acid Alkaline Diet  “What the science says: Much of the diet’s advice — mainly cutting down on meat, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods — is sound, but it’s making these recommendations based on faulty information. The body regulates its own pH, regardless of what you eat. Proponents of the diet claim that acidic foods make your body work harder to digest them, but that isn’t backed up by science. Some also say that the alkaline diet could protect against bone loss, but researchers have dismissed that claim. Eating more fruits and vegetables is always a good idea, but cutting out several major food groups entirely could leave you lacking key nutrients. Scientists haven’t studied whether the alkaline diet could help you lose weight.”

#36 in Best Diets Overall: Paleo Diet “What the science says: We know cutting most processed foods and sugar out of your diet can be beneficial. A small observational study found participants did lose weight and might have reduced their heart disease risk on the paleo diet, but these effects didn’t appear to be more than other participants on similarly calorie-restricted diets. A review of four studies found similar results, but noted the researchers only studied the diet intervention short-term. Cutting out main food groups like dairy and grains could prevent you from getting the nutrients you need, though. “If you want to copy your paleolithic ancestors, you’re better off mimicking their activity levels, rather than their alleged diet,” the British Dietetic Association concludes.”

#38 in Best Diets Overall: Whole30 Diet  “What the science says: Restrictive diets can be much harder to follow, and Whole 30 is a very restrictive diet. It’s also a short-term plan, not the type of long-term lifestyle change that typically yields better results over time. Whole 30 is somewhat similar to the Paleo diet, which has only shown modest short-term effects in studies. Scientists haven’t studied Whole 30 specifically yet. But Dr. David L. Katz, the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, told Business Insider last summer that he was skeptical of the benefits people rave about on Instagram. “The grouping [of banned foods] is both random, and rather bizarre from a nutrition perspective,” he said. “If the idea is good nutrition, cutting out whole grains and legumes is at odds with a boatload of evidence.”


The Gluten-Free diet was not on the USNews Best Diets list. I know a lot of people are going gluten free, so I wanted to add the comments about it from  What the science says about every popular diet — and whether they can work for you :

“What the science says: Record numbers of people are gluten-free now, despite the fact that a 2016 study found that the number of people with celiac disease has remained steady since 2009. Researchers suspect that many people feel better when they cut gluten out of their diets because this also means they eat fewer sugary, processed foods. People on gluten-free diets can be at risk of missing out on key nutrients found in grains, like iron, fiber, and riboflavin. There isn’t evidence to suggest that a gluten-free diet could help you lose weight, and some people even gain weight on the diet. But for the 1% of the US population who has celiac disease, going gluten-free can save them from the gastrointestinal distress that grains cause them.”

Take a look at that link. It discusses more diets that you may be interested in.


Oprah Winfrey is now the co-owner & spokesman for Weight Watchers. I read an interview that she did. I want to share what she said. I think this sums up how we should look at diets and our intentions:

“Intention is the most powerful principle that rules my world. It’s the principle by which I rule my company and every action in my life. I do nothing without first thinking about why I’m doing it,” she said. “When the weight started to come off, I needed to get clear on my intention. I could lose weight to fit a dress size, or attend an event, or to make other people like me. But I couldn’t keep it off for those reasons. I always put the weight back on. This time I changed the intention to, ‘I want to be the healthiest I can be — physically, emotionally, spiritually.’ So the process and purpose of losing shifted for me. It was easier, because my intention was clearer.”  from CollegeCandy 

‘I want to be the healthiest I can be — physically, emotionally, spiritually.’ This should be our focus, our goal, our intention, & our life long resolution.

Until next week….Mary 🙂

Resources

  • Best Diets “ U.S. News evaluated 38 of the most popular diets and identified the best. Find which top-rated diet is best for your health and fitness goals.”
  • Less shrinkage: This is your aging brain on the Mediterranean diet The aging brain is a shrinking brain, and a shrinking brain is, generally speaking, a brain whose performance and reaction time are declining: That is a harsh reality of growing older. But new research shows that brain shrinkage is less pronounced in older folks whose diets hew closely to the traditional diet of Mediterranean peoples — including lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil, little red meat and poultry, and regular, moderate consumption of fish and red wine.”
  • A diet high in fruits, vegetables and fish may help fight acne in adult women “Research found that women who consumed little to no fruits, vegetables and fish were more likely to experience breakouts as adults. Twenty to 40 percent of people over 18 still struggle with acne.”
  • DASH Diet Wins Top Spot Again “After the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet came in second overall, and the MIND diet took third place. The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while drinking alcohol in moderation. The MIND diet, a new addition last year, combines elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. It aims to boost brain health.”
  • A Plant-Friendly Atkins Diet Gets High Marks On List Of 2017’s Best Diets “The Eco-Atkins diet makes the cut in the fastest weight-loss category. The diet was developed by a nutrition scientist at the University of Toronto. “It’s a plant-based spin on the Atkins diet. It calls for 31 percent of daily calories to come from plant proteins, 43 percent from plant fats and 26 percent from carbs,” explains Haupt.”
  • What the science says about every popular diet — and whether they can work for you There are so many diets out there, but figuring out which one will actually work for you can be tough. Luckily, scientists have found that most reasonable diets can help you lose weight, compared to not following a diet at all. Overall, studies have shown that diets rich in plants and low in processed foods are the best for weight loss.But many popular diets aren’t based on sound scientific principles.If you’re setting a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in 2017, here’s what the science says about 15 popular diets, so you can decide which one — if any — might be right for you.
  • Whole30 Is Actually the Worst Diet You Could Do 
  • Army warns of new threat: Energy drinks  These products generally are unregulated and can have negative side effects,” the report said. “Those who drank three or more drinks a day also were more likely to report sleep disruption related to stress and illness and were more likely to fall asleep during briefings or on guard duty.”
  • Diet debate: Are diet drinks a no-go? A lot of people assume they must be healthy choices because they are not sugared beverages, but the critical thing for people to understand is we don’t have the evidence,” said Prof Susan Swithers, from the US’s Purdue University. Studies looking at large groups of people have shown obese people tend to drink more fizzy diet drinks than those of a healthy weight.” 

“Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.” – Thomas Jefferson

MHollander

MHollander

A California man was charged with a DUI, “driving under the influence”, last week. He was taken to jail & a blood test was done. It came back positive for only one substance, caffeine! “Given that Americans consume an average of 3.1 cups of coffee a day, it’s unlikely he’s the only driver on the road to have ever enjoyed such a seemingly innocent pick-me-up. So, how in the world could caffeine impair a driver’s capability behind the wheel? According to NBC medical contributor Dr. John Torres, it wouldn’t. ‘Studies have shown that caffeine actually helps ones driving abilities. The only way that it might have an effect is if a person overdoses on caffeine or uses it to cover fatigue and then it wears off,’ Torres said.” (#5)

Putting the legal issues of this gentleman aside; let’s talk about my favorite drink, coffee. You have read about the health benefits of coffee under our Coffee, Topic PageYou are also aware of some of it’s side effects: insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, stomach upset etc. ~Check the resources below for more information.~ But, do you know how to pick a roast, store it & finally make the perfect cup?


The History of Coffee: No one knows exactly how coffee was discovered. The following story/myth is my favorite. 

“Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans. 

The story goes that that Kaldi discovered coffee after he noticed that after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night. Sound familiar? 🙂

Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made a drink with the berries and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread.

As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would bring these beans across the globe.” (#1)

This is a fun infographic by I LOVE COFFEE (#9). Wow! Those Irish get my vote 🙂

I LOVE COFFEE

I LOVE COFFEE.JP  


Coffee Beans: The world’s finest premium gourmet coffee beans come from Arabica coffee plants grown at high elevations in prime coffee-growing regions with an ideal climate and fertile, well-drained soils. (#2)

To get to your table the beans go through these steps: 10 Steps from Seed to Cup This is a very lengthy process starting with planting the coffee tree to the various harvesting, drying & processing techniques. If you are interested, go to the link. I found it fascinating. It is easy to buy the roasted beans & grind them yourself but learning about the actual process to get them to my store was a humbling experience.

This link, Coffee Around the World, has a wonderful article about where the beans come from. They are grown in more than 50 countries around the world. “Everything from the variety of the plant, the chemistry of the soil, the weather, the amount of rainfall and sunshine, and even the precise altitude at which the coffee grows can affect the taste of the final product.”  And you thought selecting a coffee bean was easy! It is as complicated as selecting a chocolate in the candy aisle. 🙂 To make it even more complicated let’s look at roast type.


Roast: I like dark roasted coffee. The darker roast has less acidity and less caffeine than the lighter roasts. To my palate it has a very rich, creamy flavor. My favorite dark roast is from Mexico.

Coffee Roast Guide:  “Roasting brings out the aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans. Beans are stored green, a state in which they can be kept without loss of quality or taste.  A green bean has none of the characteristics of a roasted bean — it’s soft and spongy to the bite and smells grassy. 

Roasting causes chemical changes to take place as the beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures. When they reach the peak of perfection, they are quickly cooled to stop the process. Roasted beans smell like coffee, and weigh less because the moisture has been roasted out. They are crunchy to the bite, ready to be ground and brewed.”


Grind: What grind you choose depends on how you are going to brew it. I use a French Press. Although I do love Turkish coffee, I never had any luck in brewing it at home. It is my treat when I go out.


How to Store Coffee: “To preserve your beans’ fresh roasted flavor as long as possible, store them in an opaque, air-tight container at room temperature. Coffee beans can be beautiful, but avoid clear canisters which will allow light to compromise the taste of your coffee. Keep your beans in a dark and cool location.” Oops! I store my beans in a clear jar in a dark cupboard. Time to get new canisters.


Recipes: Couldn’t pass up recipes with my favorite beverage!

  • Get Your Coffee Fix With 25 Unexpected Recipes: “Whether you’re ready for a caffeine IV-drip or just into the occasional after-dinner cappuccino, it’s hard to deny coffee is delicious (especially when mixed with sugar, spice, or all types of chocolate). In honor of National Coffee Day, we’ve rounded up 25 healthy recipes featuring the magical beans. The dark, complex brew lends deep flavor to just about any dish, from sweet to savory…..” 

  • Scones & a cup of coffee are a treat. Scones with espresso & chocolate as an ingredient are simply decadent! Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Espresso SconesYou can make some simple substitutes to make this healthier.

  • Leftover Coffee? Make These 7 Recipes So It Never Goes to Waste: “If you’re anything like us, you’re familiar with the last cup of coffee scenario: It’s not quite enough for another cup and you’re supposed to leave for work in three minutes. Do you chug it or dump it down the train? Neither! We’re sharing the best possible meals and treats (sweet and savory) for however much extra joe you’ve got; be it several ounces or just a few teaspoons. So before you tackle your day, pour whatever’s left into a jar with a lid. Pop it in the fridge—you’re going to need (and want) it later. Bean Chili with Walnuts & Chocolate. I must give this one a try. sounds like a chili mole!

 


MHollander

MHollander

 

I raise my favorite coffee cup in wishing you all a Healthy, Happy, & Peaceful 2017…….Mary 🙂

 

 

 

 


Resources

  1. How to Brew Coffee 
  2. Espresso & Coffee Buying Guide
  3. Coffee, Topic Page 
  4. Coffee, WebMD 
  5. 4 Things to Know About Caffeine, the Surprising Substance Behind a California Man’s DUI 
  6. Caffeine MedlinePlus 
  7. Benefits of drinking coffee outweigh risks, review suggests 
  8. Top 5 Surprisingly Good Effects Of Caffeine 
  9. I LOVE COFFEE Blog site Infographics are from this site.
  10. National Coffee Association, USA 

News Updates: Eggs, Sugar, Fukushima & Nutrition Trends for 2017

I have chosen three topics to update from the health news. Eggs, because they are still being maligned 🙂 An update on the ongoing research by corporations to find the perfect sugar; low in calories & still addictive. I picked the Fukushima update as it is important to all of you who eat seafood & for those of you who are concerned about radiation exposure. While exploring the internet I also found an interesting website listing what to expect in the food world for 2017. Scads of good information.


organic_eggs_egg_carton2Eggs

Egg whites are high in protein, but did you know that the yolk contains choline? A recent study, Assessment of Total Choline Intakes in the United Statesindicates that Americans do not get enough choline in their diet. Choline is an essential nutrient. Dr. Weil:  “Choline is utilized by the body in a variety of ways including aiding nerve signaling, maintenance of cell membranes, transporting triglycerides from the liver, and as a constituent of nervous system tissues in early brain development.” 

Dr. Low Dog: Time to Reconsider Eggs? Our Need for Choline. “So where to get this relatively unknown yet vital micronutrient? Fortunately, choline is surprisingly easy to add to the diet. Specifically beef, wheat germ, scallops, salmon, chicken, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, peanuts and milk all contain choline, but the goldmine source is eggs, which contain a choline-rich yolk center.” Good article.

This study regarding eggs has made the headlines for the past few weeks. The article in PubMed has the original study & its conclusions. One item I found interesting was that the participants in the study were not asked about their overall diet or how the eggs were prepared. One would think that information would be pertinent to this study.

  • PubMed: Eating one egg a day may lower risk of stroke“An egg a day can cut chances of suffering a fatal stroke,” The Times reports. A new review of existing data covering around 300,000 people suggests eating up to one egg a day may lower stroke risk; but not the risk of heart disease. The health effects of eggs have been debated for years. Eggs, which contain cholesterol, were thought to increase risk of heart disease by raising cholesterol levels. But more recent studies show that cholesterol in food has little impact on the levels of cholesterol in your blood – most cholesterol in the blood is made by the liver.”

Bottom line: Eat the whole egg! How many? The current guidelines range from 1-3 eggs a day as being perfectly healthy for most people. The exceptions are diabetics & people with heart disease. Unless you are making an omelette, I would go with 1 egg a day max.

When making an omelette use 2 egg whites & 1 whole egg. That way, you get the choline & a protein boost. You can also rotate: one day egg white only & the next a whole egg. Eggs are part of a balanced Mediterranean diet. Moderation!


MHollander

MHollander

Sugar

Nestlé scientists have discovered a way to change the sugar molecule so you think you are enjoying the same sweetness in your candy but in fact you are consuming 40% less sugar. The company states that the 40% reduction in sugar, with this new process, will not change the taste of your favorite candy bar.

My biggest problem with this idea is the “halo effect”. This means that consumers will eat more candy because it has less sugar. It is the same problem with reduced fat in Dreyer’s ~a subsidiary of Nestlé~ slow churned ice cream, which has 2/3 the calories & 1/2 the fat of regular ice cream. It is a healthier choice but it is easy to justify eating more than one serving. I submit that portion control is still the best way to handle our “indulgences”. 

According to one article I read, Nestle has found a way to restructure sugar crystals. This is different than genetically modifying sugar cane. So it will be GMO free. The positive side to this is that Nestle does not want to use artificial sweeteners in their products. Milk Chocolate is made of 50% sugar so by cutting the amount of sugar by 40%, the candy wouldn’t be calorie free but close. Good news.


Fukushima

Following the 9.0 earthquake & tsunami in Japan on March 2011, many of you were concerned about the radiation from Fukushima reaching our shores. The greatest concern was how much this radiation would effect the food we eat, especially seafood. Well, it has arrived & it is making the news this week.

  • Should we be worried about Fukushima radiation? from USA TODAY “The levels are very low and shouldn’t harm people eating fish from the West Coast or swimming in the ocean, according to Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “To put it in context, if you were to swim everyday for six hours a day in those waters for a year, that additional radiation from the addressed cesium from Japan … is 1000 times smaller than one dental x-ray,” Buesseler said in a phone interview.
  • Radiation From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Detected On US Shores: Should You Worry? from TECH TIMES. “Although the detection of cesium-134 on U.S. shores may sound troubling, researchers said that the detected levels do not actually pose danger to humans and the environment.”

Should we believe this scientist? I say yes. Our only other choice is to freak out about it without any scientific evidence to indicate that we should. Being fearful & stressed is the worse thing we can do for our immune system. Ken Buesseler, the scientist behind this news, stated that: “You can’t ever have a radioactive-free ocean,” he said. “You have nuclear disasters like this one, testing and naturally occurring radioactivity.” The radioactive levels will continue to be monitored & we will hear about any increases.

In the meantime, monitor the type of seafood you eat by using the following resources. They can help you make healthier choices that will not only effect you but also have less impact on the environment.


This article caught my eye while reading the news.  The Next Healthy Food Trends You Will See in 2017  from Spoon University The following are highlights of the article. It is worth reading.

  1. Meat Substitutes: “As a fellow vegetarian, this news will probably be the best I have heard all day. More and more people are starting to eat a plant-based diet, whether that may be a flexible pescatarian or a full on vegan……”
  2. Seeds: “As more people get back into working out at the start of the new year, you are sure to see an increase in the demand for seeds. Seeds have many health benefits like being packed with protein and fiber. In addition, they add taste and consistency to really any type of dish….”
  3. Craft Beer: “No doubt about it, craft is about to be the next organic. Craft beers and ciders are being seen along side items that are homegrown, provenance, or even seasonal because people are looking for quality over quantity….”
  4. Vegetable-Based Entrees: “If you haven’t gotten to experience zoodles, then you’re SOL. Vegetables are coming in hot as a replacement for carbs and meats because they are lower in calories and carbohydrates. This means these dishes—such as zucchini pasta or smoked carrots—make for a lighter meal and add more flavor to the dish…..”
  5. Fermented Drinks: “You have probably seen the vegan or yogi bloggers you follow on Instagram telling you how much they love “the buch.” And you should listen….”
  6. Seaweed: “Move over kale, there is a new lean, green fighting machine in town—and its name is seaweed…”
  7. Cauliflower-Based Carbs: “Cauliflower alternatives made their grand debut in 2016, but were caught in the tailwind of the gluten-free craze. In 2017, look for a rise in cauliflower alternatives, not only on Pinterest, but also in upscale restaurants….”
  8. Artisan Meats: “What goes good with a big glass of wine, your ladies, and a Friday night? Artisan meat and cheese….”
  9. Root to Stem Vegetables: “Stop slicing the greens off your carrots and peeling your potatoes because it’s time to start your bite at the root and make your way all the way down to the stem….”

Let’s hope this list is correct, especially the craft beer & cider 🙂 This is a crazy website geared toward getting college students to eat a healthier diet. It is worth looking at their recipe page…Spoon University Recipes  & to check out 19 Recipes to Make if You are Planning to Stay in This NYE!  It is such fun finding new nutrition websites 🙂


I want to wish you all a Happy Winter Solstice on the 21st, a Happy Yule & a Healthy, Happy, New Year. 

“Peace comes from within.  Do not seek it without.” ― Gautama Buddha

Our next Blog Post will be Tuesday, January 3, 2017…….Mary 🙂

 

The Ecology of Estrogen in the Female Body…copyright Juliet Blankespoor

We know that hormones influence many types of cancers in both women & men. The two most common are breast & prostate; hormone dependent cancers. They also play a lesser role in ovarian, testicular, endometrial, lung & liver for example. These would be considered hormone-sensitive cancers.  Being diagnosed with hormone dependent or sensitive cancer leads to the question of phytoestrogens in our diet, & endocrine disruptors in our environment. I have addressed these concerns in our blog, Phytoestrogens & under the Topic page, Endocrine Disruptors.

But what are endogenous estrogens, phytoestrogens & xenoestrogens? What are their roles in the human body? We need to know how they effect our body in order to understand the treatment programs for hormone dependent/sensitive cancers. I read a very comprehensive article last week about this very subject at The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s Blog This article is scientifically based yet “layman friendly”. I received permission from the author, Juliet Blankespoor, to share the entire article with you. I encourage you to read the entire article. Great information about flax & soy.

I highlighted the links to Juliet’s other articles regarding phytoestrogens & endocrine disruptors for those of you whom would like more information. 

The Ecology of Estrogen in the Female Body 

copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense, Fabaceae): copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Women today live in a very different world than our foremothers. Our female predecessors began menstruating later in life, had more children, breastfed longer, underwent menopause earlier, ate whole foods, and lived in a cleaner environment. Women today have approximately ten times as many menstrual cycles as their great-great-grandmothers. Our bodies did not evolve with the hormonal inputs of perpetual ovulation and menstruation. As a result, more women than ever are experiencing reproductive disorders, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts. Painful menstrual cramps, persistent acne and cyclic breast tenderness are so common that they are taken for granted as a normal aspect of female physiology. Many natural practitioners address these issues with herbal hormone balancers, such as chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus, Lamiaceae) and black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae). These herbs are often effective, and certainly have their place in treating female reproductive disorders. However, it is important to not overlook underlying dietary and lifestyle factors that contributed to the initial hormonal imbalance, as these harmful inputs are likely to create other issues down the road, if left unaddressed.

In this article, we will explore various factors affecting the hormonal ecology, or hormonal environment, of contemporary women. I will start by outlining the three major sources of estrogens, each of which is described in detail later in the article. The term endogenous is used to describe any substance generated from within an organism. Thus, endogenous estrogens are estrogens produced by the human body. Phytoestrogens are compounds, produced by plants, with an ability to bind to estrogen receptor sites. In contrast, xenoestrogens are human-made chemicals, which are also capable of binding to estrogen receptor sites. Xenoestrogens are a subclass of endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors), which are described below.

It is important to understand that a variety of compounds have the ability to fit into estrogen receptor sites—natural and human-made molecules will alter a woman’s overall estrogen pool. A woman’s ovaries may be producing healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone, but her cells may be bombarded with strong estrogenic inputs from unnatural substances in her diet, water and air. Humans are exposed to environmental chemicals beginning at conception, absorbing novel compounds through the placenta, and then through breast milk. These endocrine disruptors (chemicals which disrupt hormonal physiology) have the potential to alter the reproductive ecology of the body, often with drastic effects, such as reproductive cancers and chronic female reproductive disorders.

Phytoestrogens have the ability to bind to hormonal receptor sites; they exert a beneficial effect on the female physiology. Our bodies’ hormonal systems have evolved with phytoestrogens, which are helpful in treating estrogen dominance (relative imbalance of estrogen to progesterone), as well as reducing menopausal symptoms. Most modern peoples in wealthy industrialized nations consume very little phytoestrogens and are regularly exposed to endocrine disruptors. I believe that these two factors play a large role in the increasing rates of reproductive pathologies.

Flax seeds: copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Our diets are different than those of our great-great grandmothers—with easy access to processed “foods”, as well as chemically grown and genetically modified foods. We are often not as active as our foremothers, and many women are overweight and obese. The world is a different place, and in many ways the decisions about how we live, eat and reproduce are not as simple. Some health care professionals believe the increase in modern women’s estrogen pools should be mediated with oral contraceptives. I do not agree with that strategy, and instead propose the judicious intake of dietary and herbal phytoestrogens, along with specific lifestyle changes aimed at lessening the stress of excess estrogen.

Males are also exposed to novel chemicals in the environment, which present equal challenges to their hormonal systems. Much of the following information will be relevant to both sexes, especially the info on phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens.

Toasted sesame seeds: copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Phytoestrogens are a diverse group of compounds, found in plants, which have the ability to bind to estrogen receptor sites and elicit an estrogenic effect (phyto = plant, estrogen = estrus [period of fertility for female mammals] + gen = to generate). These “plant estrogens” are fairly abundant in a whole foods diet, and are found in many commonly eaten seeds, grains, and beans. In addition, many medicinal herbs used to treat female reproductive disorders contain phytoestrogenic compounds.

To understand how phytoestrogens work, it is important to grasp the following: varying substances can bind to the same receptor site and elicit differing effects, depending on the exact molecular fit. Phytoestrogens exert a weaker estrogenic effect on cells than endogenous estrogens and xenoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have an anti-estrogenic effect premenopausally by competitive inhibition of hormone receptor sites. When receptor sites are occupied with the less estrogenic phytoestrogens, there are fewer sites available for the more potent endogenous estrogens or xenoestrogens. Imagine a lock on a doorknob (estrogen receptor site), now picture a key (phytoestrogen) fitting into the lock and turning the key. Now imagine a second key coming along (endogenous estrogen); it can’t fit into the lock because there’s already a key there, blocking its way (phytoestrogen). The phytoestrogen key opens the door gently, while the endogenous estrogen would cause the door to fling open with wild abandon. Why do we want to gently open the door? Because most modern women have estrogen dominance, or a relative imbalance of estrogen to progesterone—turning down the estrogen dial by slowly opening the door is a good thing.

In menopausal and post-menopausal women, estrogen production from the ovaries slows, and then stops. As menstruation ceases, phytoestrogens have a positive effect by increasing the estrogenic effect on the body. Although phytoestrogens are less estrogenic than endogenous estrogens, they still increase the net estrogenic effect. This is evidenced by epidemiological studies demonstrating fewer menopausal symptoms, greater bone density, and lower breast cancer in populations of women who regularly consume phytoestrogens as part of their diet. [i]

Sources of phytoestrogens:

Isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, formononetin, and biochanin A) are primarily found in the bean family (Fabaceae) and are some of the most potent and well-researched phytoestrogens. Soybeans (Glycine max, Fabaceae) appear to be the most concentrated dietary source of isoflavones. Soy foods, listed in order of isoflavone concentration, include miso, tempeh, soymilk, tofu, and edamame. Soy is one of the most controversial foods today, either vilified as a harmful substance or praised for its nutritional superiority. There are some possible negative aspects to soy: it is a common allergen, difficult for many to digest, and typically grown as a genetically modified monoculture. However, it is a traditional food, consumed by Asians for millennia, and can be grown organically, without any chromosomal foul play. It is crucial to understand the difference between its traditional whole foods forms (tempeh, miso, tamari, edamame, and tofu) and the industrially produced processed “food”—soy protein isolate. Much of American soy consumption is from the latter form in processed meats from fast foods.

Soy beans (Glycine max, Fabaceae): copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Traditional Asian cultures ingest about one ounce of soy daily on average, often in fermented forms such as tempeh, miso, and tamari. These fermented foods are easier to digest than other forms of soy. When eaten in moderation, they serve as a high protein phytoestrogen, with the following benefits: increased bone density; fewer menopausal symptoms; and lowered incidence of breast, uterine, and prostate cancers. It appears that soy consumption via breastfeeding (with mothers who consume soy foods) and in youth, reduces breast and prostate cancer later in life.[ii] Population studies show that early consumption of soy is also linked to a reduced amount of menopausal symptoms.

Most of the confusion and misinformation about soy stems from two misunderstandings: One, people do not differentiate soy’s whole fermented organic traditional forms, such as miso, tamari, and tempeh from its industrial counterpart —soy protein isolate. Many authors and speakers extrapolate from studies done on soy protein isolate to include all soy foods. That is simply inaccurate, and similar to lumping high fructose corn syrup together with organically-grown, non GMO corn tortillas, and declaring all of corn-derived foods as unhealthy and unnatural. Two, people do not understand how phytoestrogens, sourced from whole plant foods and herbs, are part of traditional diets all over the planet, and that our hormonal systems evolved with these substances. Phytoestrogens are not the same as xenoestrogens; these substances have very different effects on the human body. Comparing the two is worse than comparing apples to oranges, it’s akin to comparing DDT to broccoli, and yet, people often blur the distinction.

Lignans are the most widely consumed phytoestrogen precursors found in the western diet and are found in high concentrations in flax and sesame seeds and to a lesser extent in other seeds, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.[iii] Flax has about ten times the lignan levels as sesame. Intestinal flora metabolize the lignans, converting them to their active forms: enterodiol and enterolactone, which produce a weaker estrogenic effect compared to the isoflavones. Lignans are not present in the oil portion of the seed, so sesame and flax oil are not good sources. Both flax and sesame seeds, in their whole form, pass through the gastro-intestinal system intact, and thus are not assimilated. I recommend grinding the fresh seeds and adding them to food after the food has been cooked. Grind flax with a hand grinder, coffee grinder, or blender and store it refrigerated for a week. Add the flax meal to oatmeal, or other breakfast gruels, salads, stir-fries, and baked goods. Gomasio is a traditional Japanese condiment made from toasted sesame seeds; try it sprinkled on salads, soup, and stir-fries. Prepare gomasio by toasting the seeds in a dry cast iron skillet and then grinding them after they have cooled, with the addition of salt or seaweed. Tahini, or sesame butter, is another excellent source of lignans.

Gomasio, made from toasted sesame seeds: copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Synopsis: Sesame can be consumed liberally in the form of tahini (sesame butter) or gomasio. This tiny seed has long been used as a traditional remedy in Ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac and to strengthen the bones, hair and teeth. Sesame is considered to be a rejuvenative for Vata constitutions. In Chinese medicine, the black sesame seeds are used medicinally as a galactagogue (stimulate breast milk production) and to tonify the yin and blood. Sesame seeds are rich in calcium and protein. Two tablespoons of ground flax seed daily is a good dosage of lignans, with the additional benefit of flax’s soluble fiber (which is protective against cardio-vascular disease and helps to promote healthy intestinal flora).

For women who are able to effectively digest soy: I recommend tamari and/or miso daily. Both miso and tamari are naturally eaten in moderation, as they are so salty tasting. Tempeh or tofu can be eaten two to three times a week. I strongly caution women (and all humans) to avoid soy protein and soy protein isolate –these processed “foods” can be found in many fake meat products, fast foods, health bars, and even commercial smoothies. I am not a fan of isolated isoflavone supplements, such as genistein, and believe that dietary sources from whole foods and herbs are a better choice. Herbal sources of isoflavones include Red clover (Trifolium pratense, Fabaceae) and Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Fabaceae).

For a more detailed look at phytoestrogens, please see Juliet’s article here.

Endocrine disruptors, or hormone disruptors, are human-made chemicals in the environment that interfere with the development and function of all body systems in animals, including humans. Endocrine disruptors can bind to hormone receptor sites, triggering a body-wide hormonal influence. They may also inhibit our natural hormones, such as androgens (male hormones), thyroid hormones, and progesterone. In addition, these chemicals can affect the production, elimination and metabolism of our endogenous hormones.

Most of the chemicals used in modern conventional industrial agriculture are known endocrine disruptors. These same chemicals are also used in home gardens and lawns. Home use of garden herbicides and insecticides are typically devoid of the same regulation and education inherent in agricultural settings. Many of the ingredients in cleaning and body care products have also demonstrated binding to hormone receptor sites. Additional exposure may come from absorbing compounds found in electronic devices and shopping receipts.

Princess Xeno, of the Endocrine Wonky Tribe: copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Most Americans have some control over reducing exposure to environmental toxins, but there are people throughout the world who do not have this privilege. Socioeconomic factors contribute greatly to accessing fresh food, and clean water and air. Pollution is typically higher in poorer areas. Endocrine disruptors do not observe political boundaries; air and water currents carry these chemicals far and wide. The decisions we make about how we live and consume have the power to affect the hormonal systems of all people and animals globally for generations to come. For more information on endocrine disruptors, including resources for learning more, please see Juliet’s article on the subject.

Synopsis: It is a common response to feel disheartened and concerned for the future generations of all life when first hearing about endocrine disruptors. That’s a good sign of humanness! However, it is beneficial to balance the facts with hope, and learn about reducing personal and planetary exposure to endocrine disruptors.

Avoid any type of plastic coming into contact with food and beverages. Use glass and stainless steel containers instead. Buy or make natural cleaning and body care products. Buy or grow food organically. If finances are an issue, focus on organic meat and dairy, as the bulk of our exposure to agricultural chemicals comes from these animal foods. Many forms of packaging contain endocrine disruptors: the inside lining of canned foods, aseptic containers, and plastic wrap to name a few. Microwaving foods in plastic should be avoided. Filter water unless it is absolutely pure spring or well water (lucky few). Avoid chemicals in clothing (fire-retardant children’s pajamas) and freshly manufactured synthetic fabrics. Try to avoid the chemicals found in conventional building materials. It can be maddening to think about all the ways we absorb environmental chemicals! Living simply is a good start, along with breathing deeply and laughing through the madness.

For many women, fasting and cleansing can be extremely beneficial if undertaken slowly and carefully. This is especially important for a woman considering motherhood, as most of her lifetime stores of fat-soluble chemicals are passed on to her infant via breast-milk. It is beyond the scope of this article to thoroughly discuss fasting and cleansing, but I will say that it is imperative to tailor the cleanse to the woman’s constitution and lifestyle. For someone who eats mainly processed foods and lives a fairly typical western lifestyle, a good start would be to eat a mono diet like kicheree (a traditional Indian dish, made from mung beans, rice and spices) for four days. During this time, offer herbal support in the form of alteratives, diuretics, and liver and kidney tonics. Examples would be dandelion leaf and root (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae), nettles (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae), and burdock (Arctium minus and A. lappa, Asteraceae). Sweating through exercise, saunas, and baths is also helpful in removing toxins via perspiration. Hydration is imperative, as well as daily bowel movements. If a person feels very nauseous, achy, shaky, or experiences headaches, that is a sign to slow down or stop the cleanse. The body cannot always easily metabolize fat-soluble chemicals, which enter the bloodstream when fat cells are broken down (through reduced caloric intake). One should never attempt a fast or cleanse when pregnant or nursing. Fasting is not appropriate for all people, and for many it can seriously worsen a pre-existing condition. On a final note, the support of long-term dietary and lifestyle goals should be one of the primary points of attention. After healthy patterns have been established, one may embark on fasting and cleansing.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae): copyright Juliet Blankespoor

The Liver breaks down circulating estrogen and progesterone and excretes the inactive metabolites from the body via the bile, and eventually the feces. If a woman’s liver is impaired, hormonal metabolism and excretion can be slow. Her ovaries may be producing a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone, but the liver is allowing the hormones to circulate longer in the bloodstream, resulting in increased estrogen levels. The relationship between the liver and female reproductive health has long been recognized by most, if not all, traditional systems of medicine.

Synopsis: With any female reproductive disorder, it is important to examine the health of the liver. Symptoms of liver and gall bladder disharmony include frequent headaches, pale stools, excessive anger, irritability, digestive sluggishness, constipation, and an inability to tolerate alcohol or digest fats. Often the person will describe feeling stuck or held back. Yellow eyes and skin are other indicators of possible liver distress. Other precipitating factors include a history of alcoholism, hepatitis, excessive NSAID use, exposure to solvents and environmental toxins, and intake of pharmaceuticals or recreational drugs known to be especially hard on the liver. If possible, reduce any ongoing harmful inputs, such as the intake of excessive alcohol and fried foods, and habitual NSAID use.

Consider supporting the liver with traditional liver and blood tonics, such as dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae), burdock root (Arctium lappa and A. minus, Asteraceae), red clover (Trifolium pratense, Fabaceae), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum, G. applanatum, and G. tsugae, Ganodermataceae), vervain (Verbena officinalis, V. hastata, and other species, Verbenaceae) and nettles (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae). If you suspect or know of liver damage, consider hepatoregeneratives (herbs which stimulate re-growth of damaged liver tissue), such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum, Asteraceae) and artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus, Asteraceae). Bitters can also help to stimulate the flow of bile with the attendant excretion of estrogen. Many of the aforementioned hepatics have a bitter taste and can be taken 20 minutes before meals to optimize the bitter action. Note that most bitters are cooling and drying; add warming and/or demulcent herbs to soften the energetic effects in people who run cool and dry.

Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae): copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Intestinal Flora imbalance is almost an epidemic in western industrialized nations. One in three babies in the United States comes into this world through cesarean birth, and many are not breastfed; both factors contribute to the imbalance of intestinal flora. In addition, antibiotics are frequently administered to children, which also diminishes healthy populations of intestinal flora.

Our bacterial beasties help in the assimilation of phytoestrogens; intestinal flora convert lignans into their bioactive form and aid in the absorption of isoflavones. The repeated use of antibiotics and subsequent damage to intestinal bacteria has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, perhaps in part due to the lowered production of active phytoestrogen metabolites.[iv] Intestinal bacteria also play a role in estrogen metabolism; certain bacteria produce an enzyme capable of converting the inactive estrogen metabolites in the gut back into a viable estrogen, which is then reabsorbed further down the digestive tract. It appears that supporting healthy populations of intestinal flora helps to reduce this “reinstatement” of estrogen, thus allowing estrogen to leave the body via the feces.

Synopsis: Support healthy populations of intestinal flora by introducing the use of bitters, prebiotics, and fermented foods. Prebiotic foods (not to be confused with pro-biotics) are not digested by human intestinal enzymes, and instead are broken down and absorbed by intestinal flora. The ingestion of prebiotic foods is one of the best ways to support healthy populations of beneficial intestinal bacteria. The best way to absorb prebiotics is in food, but tea is a second best. Herbal/Dietary sources are: leeks, asparagus, and the roots of dandelion, chicory, burdock and Jerusalem artichoke tubers (not to be confused with artichoke hearts or artichoke heads). Roasting roots converts inulin (type of prebiotic) into sugars, and thus roasted root teas are less effective for supporting healthy intestinal flora. The ingestion of fermented foods is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Examples of fermented foods and beverages are: miso, live kimchi and sauerkraut, kefir (water and dairy), yogurt (dairy, soy or coconut), kombucha, and many others. Many of these items can easily be found in the aisles of health food stores, but it is much more economical to learn how to ferment at home. Probiotic supplementation may be indicated, but fermented foods should also be incorporated into the diet.

Burdock root (Arctium minus, Asteraceae): copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Dietary fiber intake reduces estrogen levels in the body, and is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. [v] In addition, soluble fiber nourishes healthy populations of intestinal flora and reduces cholesterol levels in the body. A good way to remember soluble fiber is that both slimy and soluble begin with an S; soluble fiber binds with water to form a mucilaginous texture. Barley, oats, split peas, bananas, okra, and most beans are high in soluble fiber.

Synopsis: Incorporate ample sources of whole plant foods in the diet: fruits, beans, whole grains and vegetables. If you are used to eating processed grains and little fruits and vegetables, the increased fiber intake can result in painful gas. Introduce these foods slowly while taking digestive bitters before meals. Carminatives, like fennel, cinnamon, anise, and mint can also help. Over time, the intestinal flora will adapt to the higher fiber intake.

Fractal Cauliflower – artful fiber: copyright Juliet Blankespoor

Body Fat

Pre-menopausally, the ovaries (specifically, the follicles and corpus luteum) are the primary producers of estrogens. In addition, some of the body’s supply is derived from the conversion of androgens (male reproductive hormones) by the aromatase enzyme. This conversion (aromatization) takes place primarily in fat tissue, but also occurs in the brain, skin, muscle, and bones. After menopause, this secondary source of estrogen is particularly important as it provides for most of the body’s estrogen. During the reproductive years, aromatization can account for a significant contribution to circulating estrogen levels; the powerful effect of aromatization is demonstrated in women who have undergone surgical removal of their ovaries without experiencing the symptoms of premature menopause. Excess aromatization, however, has been linked to breast, adrenal, endometrial and prostate cancers. In summary, excess body fat contributes to excess estrogen levels through increased aromatization. Conversely, low body fat can translate to low levels of estrogen, through reducing aromatization. Low levels of body fat may contribute to amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), infertility, anovulation (lack of ovulation), or difficulty with menopause.

High caloric intake has been linked to earlier menarche (onset of menstruation) and later menopause; this leads to a longer exposure to estrogen, and increases the risk of breast cancer.[vi] Postmenopausal obesity has shown to be a strong risk factor for breast cancer, increasing the risk by as much as 50%. [vii]Excess body fat has also been linked to uterine fibroids and endometriosis. [viii]

Synopsis: Maintaining a healthy body weight can help keep the peripheral conversion of reproductive hormones in balance. It is important to rule out eating disorders, food allergies, digestive issues, depression, hyperthyroidism, body image issues, and over exercising as possible causes of low body weight.  Often women are simply thin, due to genetics or constitution, without any underlying pathology. Inquire about the diet, and help to optimize the ingestion of whole foods, including high quality fats and proteins. Often, increasing wild or organic animal foods in the diet will help to build the body’s reserve and build connective tissue (including adipose tissue) and blood.

If a woman is clinically overweight or obese, excess aromatization can take place, leading to higher levels of circulating estrogen. It is important to rule out underlying causes of obesity, such as hypothyroidism, depression, and stress. Sensible plans for weight loss include exercise, coupled with reduced caloric intake, and a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are overweight, find an exercise plan that feels realistic. Walking or hiking with a buddy is a great first step. Social support is extremely effective in helping to change ingrained dietary and lifestyle habits. It is a bigger letdown to cancel a walking date with a friend, than simply convincing yourself that you don’t need to walk. Pencil in your exercise into your calendar at specific times, and you will be more likely to follow through. Start with a simple plan so you don’t set yourself up for failure. For example, walking briskly for 30 minutes every other day is more realistic goal than jogging every morning for one hour.

Who does the cooking in the household? The person who prepares meals needs to be on board with any dietary changes. Remember, for most people it is psychologically easier to add healthier foods, rather than subtract unhealthy items. A reasonable goal would be to add a fresh salad or cooked greens to lunch and dinner and to add fresh fruit to breakfast and/or snacks. Chewing slowly and using a small plate are time-tested dieting tricks.

In conclusion, there are many factors contributing to each woman’s personal estrogen ecology; these need to be explored in any female reproductive disorder. Often, herbal hormone balancers are indicated, along with appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes. It is my hope that this information is part of a foundation for sustaining healthy reproductive systems!

Resources/ Suggested Reading:

  • Trickey, Ruth. Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle—Herbal and Medical Solutions from Adolescence to Menopause. Fully revised and updated edition.
  • Romm, Aviva. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health.
  • Blankespoor, Juliet. Phytoestrogens Demystified. http://chestnutherbs.com/phytoestrogens
  • Steingraber, Sandra. Having Faith—An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood.
  • Colborn, Theo and others. Our Stolen Future.

References:


[i] Julia R. Barrett, “The Science of Soy: What Do We Really Know?,” Environmental Health Perspectives 114, no. 6 (June 2006): A352–A358.

[ii] Jillian Stansbury, “Gene Expression and Reproductive Health. Medicines from the Earth.  Official Proceedings.   June 4-7, 2010.  P138-142.,” n.d.

[iii] “Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University,” accessed April 26, 2013, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/lignans/.

[iv] “Risk of Breast Cancer in Relation… [Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2008] – PubMed – NCBI,” accessed April 26, 2013, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17943999.

[v] D. Aune et al., “Dietary Fiber and Breast Cancer Risk: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prospective Studies,” Annals of Oncology (January 10, 2012), doi:10.1093/annonc/mdr589.

[vi] “Breast Cancer Research | Full Text | Does Diet Affect Breast Cancer Risk?,” accessed April 26, 2013, http://breast-cancer-research.com/content/6/4/170.

[vii] Sandhya Pruthi et al., “A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Management of Breast Cancer, Part 2: Therapeutic Considerations,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Mayo Clinic 82, no. 9 (September 2007): 1131–1140, doi:10.4065/82.9.1131.

[viii] Ruth Trickey, Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle, n.d.

This article was previously published in Plant Healer Magazine, the paperless quarterly journal of the new folk herbalism resurgence – a downloadable, beautifully illustrated, full color PDF magazine http://planthealermagazine.com/

I hope that you got as much out of this article as I did. In today’s health care climate we need to be able to make informed decisions about our care. It takes time & effort to gather scientifically based information that you can understand. That has been my goal with this website. Until next week……….Mary 🙂

 

Healthy Holiday Recipes for Cookies, Candies & Nuts!

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore

What better gift is there than homemade baked goods for the holidays. My mother would start baking on the first of December. She would then freeze what was made in preparation for the gift bags she put together for neighbors, friends & family. I also think she froze them to keep me, my brothers & father from eating them all 🙂

Most people are trying their best to make it through the season without indulging too much. It is difficult when the chemo room has trays of treats brought in for the health care staff & the patients. I have found some healthier versions of holiday cookies, nuts & candies that are vegan, gluten free & don’t use cane sugar. I will share my tried & true favorites & links to others.


Holiday Cookies don’t have to be laden with cane sugar. This is a recipe that I have used a great deal & everyone loves it.

MUESLI BREAKFAST COOKIES  Melissa King at My Whole Foods Life

Yields 24, 5 min Prep Time, 10 min Cook Time, 15 min Total Time

 Ingredients

  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Muesli or your favorite.
  • 2 mashed bananas (about medium sized)
  • 3/4 cup nut butter of choice (sunflower butter can also be used)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the mashed banana and nut butter.
  3. Then add the cinnamon and muesli.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies onto a lined baking sheet.
  6. The batter will be sticky. Use your palm to press each cookie down slightly.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  8. Let cool completely before removing from the baking sheet and storing in an airtight container.

Notes: These should last at least 2 weeks in the fridge. They can also be frozen up to 6 months. Enjoy!

Here is another of my favorites. You may remember this slide from my nutrition talks. You can add any ingredient you want: nuts, chopped fruit, shredded coconut etc. Be creative! These can be frozen.

Easy Healthy Oatmeal Cookie

Another one you may like to try is from the Minimalist Baker: 5 Ingredient Vegan Gluten Free Cookies  : “Sometimes you want a cookie. But sometimes you want that cookie to be healthy. And  sometimes you don’t want that cookie to annihilate your kitchen with flour and dishes. Guess what, these are those cookies! And they so tassssttttyyyyy.”

Vegan Sugar Free Trailmix Oatmeal Cookies from iFoodReal When I say sugar free I mean no sugar – no maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar. No low glycemic healthier sugars. Just naturally occurring sugars in bananas and dried fruits.” The blogger, Olena, calls her dishes “clean eating recipes”. I was impressed, check it out.


Get your holiday cookie cutters out for this healthier version of the sugar cookie. GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN VANILLA CUT-OUT COOKIES {REFINED SUGAR-FREE} from the Unconventional Baker. “This basic gluten-free vegan vanilla cut-out cookies recipe is super easy to make and is perfect for gifting and holiday cookie swaps. It’s one of my favorite cut-out recipes as it can be made and ready within half an hour {no chilling required} and it’s a very sturdy and easy to work with dough that will get you nicely shaped {and tasty} cookies every time!” 

Ginger Bread Men! Yes, even they can be healthier 🙂 Healthy Ginger Bread Men from Pheebs Foods. “This recipe does not involve any processed sugar which is fantastic as I’m sure we will all be consuming our fair share over the next month! Instead I have used pure maple syrup and molasses to sweeten and flavour these cookies. Molasses are actually the waste product produced when manufacturing white sugar. It has a dark almost caramel like flavour and as long as you are purchasing the correct type, it is low GI and nutrient dense!” She uses Almond meal rather than flour. 

This cut out recipe is from the Unconventional Baker. It is called the Ginger Fox Cookie, but you can use a holiday cookie cutter just as easily.


A gift that I like giving during the holiday season is a bag of spicy mixed nuts. I used to make Praline Pecans but they have a ton of cane sugar in them. I like this recipe because you can omit the sweetener or leave it in depending on what you had in mind taste wise. 

SPICED NUTS – DAIRY, SUGAR & GLUTEN FREE from The Simple Kitchen 

Serves: 5 cups……PREP TIME COOK TIME 10 mins, TOTAL TIME 15 mins

 INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • ¼ cup rosemary
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup for vegan version) You could cut the amount to 1 Tbsp or omit. 
  • 5 cups mixed nuts (I bought roasted and salted)
 INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat oil on a pan. Add shallots and garlic and cook until golden (about 5 min).
  3. Meanwhile, combine rosemary and spices.
  4. Once shallots are done, add shallots, spices, honey and nuts into a bowl (or on a baking sheet to save yourself a dish). Mix well and bake about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Let cool and serve.

 Notes: You may need to add more salt depending on how salted your nuts are. Mine were reduced salt so I ended up adding a bit more after they were baked. Thanks to my dear friend Lindsey for the inspiration for this recipe

I haven’t tried this one. It looks good though & would be a nice high protein snack food. Paleo Spiced Nuts from Elena’s Pantry….see my note about Elena under resources at the end of the post.

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup almonds
  • ⅔ cup pecans
  • ⅔ cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

  • Place nuts in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat
  • Toast until lightly browned
  • While nuts are toasting, prepare spice mixture
  • Combine chili, cumin, black pepper and salt in a small bowl
  • Coat nuts with olive oil, then coat with spice mixture Toss with the olive oil in the pan by shaking it & stirring with a chop stick. It will coat them evenly. I would start with a teaspoon of oil & add the rest as needed. Then toss again with the spices.
  • Serve

Candies that are easy & healthy. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles Recipe from Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine: “Peanut butter and dark chocolate make a delicious pair in this healthy snack. Chopped pretzels give this sweet and salty treat a yummy crunch.” …….Yield: 20 truffles Love making these!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter Could also use almond or cashew butter. I like chunky peanut butter.
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pretzels I use Newman’s Own Pretzel Sticks, easy to chop.
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preparation

  • Line a baking sheet with wax paper. I like parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter and pretzels. Chill in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.
  • Roll the mixture into 20 balls (about 1 teaspoon each). Place on the baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours, or until very firm.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and continue to microwave for 20-second intervals until chocolate is melted. I use a double boiler to melt the chocolate.
  • Roll the peanut butter balls in the melted chocolate and place back on baking sheet. Freeze until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
  • Keep frozen until serving. Truffles can be stored in an airtight container, frozen, for up to 2 weeks.

Dark Chocolate Made with Coconut Oil From Nutritionist, Sara Vance. Homemade dark chocolate is one of the easiest things to make, this recipe has only 5 ingredients and is ready in no time.”  

I omitted the brand names in this recipe. You can go to the original recipe to see them. I have used this recipe many times for pot lucks. I just asked the hostess to leave them in the freezer until it was time to serve the desert. They don’t melt that fast, so they can be put on the table. 

  • 1 cup of cacao powder
  • 1 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of raw agave nectar I used honey.
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon of  sea salt

Melt the coconut oil (I like to use a double boiler on simmer), allow to cool just slightly, then put all ingredients into a bowl – whisk together to combine well. Pour into a mold (I like the Tovolo ice cube molds), and put in freezer. They should be ready in 15 mins!!  When I bake with melted coconut oil, I measure it into an oven safe bowl and place it in the oven as it preheats. Does not take long to melt. Last time I made these I put them into a glass pan to freeze & then cut them into squares. You can add chopped nuts &/or coconut too.

They taste a little like a Mounds candy bar. This recipe has to come with a warning– you will find it hard to buy dark chocolate at the store ever again after trying this! Best kept stored in freezer. She isn’t kidding 🙂


Believe me, the nurses will thank you for these healthier cookies, nuts & candies. Your family & friends will too. Enjoy….Mary 🙂


Resources

Muffin Tin Meals!

Amazon.com

Buy at: Amazon.com

We have been invited to a potluck for a volunteer group my husband is a part of. While I was thinking about what to bring I remembered that in my research last week I found a great idea for stuffing; bake it in a muffin tin for individual servings. My thoughts then jumped to how wonderful an idea that would be for busy people & cancer patients in treatment. Individual, make ahead servings of meals made in a muffin tin/pan. Of course, as it turns out, I am not the only one who has thought of this. There are literally a thousand recipes on the internet.

This idea of using the muffin pan is perfect for a quick breakfast, lunch or a grab & go snack to bring along for a busy day. It would be ideal for those of you who have lost your appetite & need a calorie dense mini-meal. Let’s explore some of these ideas.


My go to for potlucks is a vegetarian, spinach & mushroom, quiche. I found several crust-less quiche recipes for a muffin pan. These would be easy to make & they could be frozen & warmed up when needed.

Mushroom, Spinach &  Mozzarella Mini Crustless Quiches 
Makes 12 muffin-size quiches

Cooking spray or grease with coconut oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
5 ounces fresh baby spinach You could also use frozen spinach well drained
6 ounces crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
5 eggs
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup 2 % milk or a nut milk or coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously spray a standard-sized muffin tin with cooking spray, making sure to cover each cup completely. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add onions. Cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they shrink in size and begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and mound the spinach on top of the mushrooms and onions. It will look like a lot of spinach, but it will wilt down. Gently stir until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.

Set aside to cool.

Crack eggs into a medium mixing bowl. Pour in the milk. Whisk until the eggs and milk completely combine and the mixture slightly fluffy, about 1 minute. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper.

When the spinach and mushroom mixture has cooled slightly, add it to the egg mixture and stir gently to combine.

Fill each muffin cup with 1/4 cup of egg and vegetable mixture (I like to use  1/4 cup measuring cup).

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops of the mini quiches begin to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a butter knife around each mini quiche to free it from the muffin tin. Serve warm or at room temp. 

Spinach Quiche Cups from Manila Spoon: Completely gluten-free and low-carb is this healthy and delicious quiche that everyone will enjoy. You can tweak the recipe to add your favorite vegetables! 

Ingredients
A little olive oil (for cooking the mushrooms)
1 (10 oz) package fresh spinach (I used the baby ones) — about 284 grams
4 eggs (if the yolks are quite small I use 5 eggs)
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I use mozzarella or the Italian Blend)
1 (8 oz package) mini-bella mushrooms, chopped

1-2 Tbsp, heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)

Salt and Pepper, to taste

*Variation – If you don’t fancy mushrooms, try asparagus or bell peppers with the spinach. Also, add some onions to the mix. I add some when I do not use mushrooms.

Procedure: Preheat the oven to 375F or 190C.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet. Saute the mushrooms until they are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Set Aside.

Place the spinach in a deep pan or in the skillet that you used for the mushrooms. Add a little water, 1/4 cup should do it. Using medium heat, cook the spinach just until wilted, about 3-4 mins. Use either your hand or a spatula to pack in the spinach. Drain the excess water really well (especially if you decide to use frozen spinach instead).

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Add the cooked mushrooms, spinach, cheeses and cream (if using) to the eggs. Mix well. Season to taste. 

Divide evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for about 20-23 minutes, or until it’s well set and a tester/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave in the pan for a few minutes or just until it’s cool enough to handle. It was so easy to remove them from the pan! They practically pop-out!


Want a healthy turkey idea? 

Muffin Tin Mini Lasagnas from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures I like this recipe because it uses turkey rather than beef & uses wonton wrappers instead of noodles.  barely adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner?

12 oz ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
24 wonton wrappers
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin generously with nonstick cooking spray. or coconut oil.

Add the ground turkey, onions, mushrooms, salt, and pepper to a large skillet set over medium to medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, break the turkey up into small crumbles and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the turkey has browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until fragrant. Add the tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of the oregano, and the red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of oregano, the basil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

To assemble: Press 1 wonton wrapper into each well of the muffin pan – be sure to press them into the bottom and sides of the pan. Working with half of the ricotta mixture, divide it among the wells of the pan evenly, pressing the ricotta into an even layer. Working with half of the tomato sauce, divide it among the wells of the pan, spreading in an even layer rather than mounding. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the mozzarella over the top of each mini lasagna. Press a second wonton wrapper onto each mini lasagna then repeat the process of layering using the second half of the ricotta mixture, the remaining half of the tomato sauce and finally two more teaspoons of the mozzarella per cup.

Bake the mini lasagnas for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove the muffin pan to a wire rack and let the mini lasagnas cool for a few minutes before removing them. Garnish with fresh basil before serving, if desired.


This Mexican food recipe can be changed to fit your taste. Again, it uses wonton wrappers. Go to the recipe link to see photos of how to put it together.

Crunchy Taco Cups from Kevin & Amanda 

YIELD: 12 CUPS (ABOUT 3-4 SERVINGS).

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef, browned and drained Can be omitted. Use ground turkey, seitan or beans instead.
  • 1 envelope (3 tablespoons) taco seasoning
  • 1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (or Mexican blend)
  • 24 wonton wrappers

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously coat a standard size muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine cooked beef, taco seasoning, and tomatoes in a bowl and stir to combine. Line each cup of prepared muffin tin with a wonton wrapper. Add 1.5 tablespoons taco mixture. Top with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Press down and add another layer of wonton wrapper, taco mixture, and a final layer of cheese.
  3. Bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes until cups are heated through and edges are golden.

Breakfast ideas:

BREAKFAST HASH BROWN CUPS from Delicious  YIELD: 12 SERVINGS, PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES, COOK TIME: 50 MINUTES, TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR, 5 MINUTES

Tender-crisp hash browns topped with eggs, bacon, spinach and mushrooms. Easy to make and so perfect to serve large crowds!”

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (20-ounce) package refrigerated hash brown potatoes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 slices bacon, diced Can be omitted.
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup chopped baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Divide potatoes into each of the 12 muffin tins, pressing carefully to make sure there is an opening in the center. Place into oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, Worcestershire and hot sauce; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; drain excess fat, reserving 1 tablespoon in the skillet. Add mushrooms and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in egg mixture until the eggs are completely set, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in spinach, 1/4 cup cheese and bacon until the spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes.

Spoon egg mixture into the muffin tins and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Place into oven and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs 
  • Splash of milk
  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry 
  • 2 chopped scallions 
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (you can also use feta or goat cheese) 
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Beat eggs with the splash of milk. Season with salt and pepper. Evenly distribute the spinach and scallions in each muffin cup. Next, pour the egg mixture on top – evenly distributing among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the cheese on top of each cup. Bake for about 20-23 minutes, or until the egg cups are well set and a tester/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

If you want to freeze the egg cups, let cool completely then wrap each egg cup individually in plastic wrap and transfer to a large freezer zip lock bag. Freeze up to one month. To serve from freezer, either thaw overnight in the fridge then re-warm in microwave or oven, or take directly from the freezer to the microwave and heat until thawed and warmed. Remove from the plastic wrap before placing in microwave!


This is another good idea for those of you on the go! 

Time-Saving Tip: Freeze Smoothie Ingredients in Muffin Tins“Instead of rounding up smoothie ingredients such as bananas, greens, and protein powder on the spot, Muffin Tin Mania’s Matt Kadey recommends blending a batch ahead of time. Freeze the mixture in muffin tins and then store in a zip-top bag for later. When you’re in the mood for a smoothie, you can quickly toss a couple of these frozen smoothie cups in a blender with liquid such as water, coconut water, or milk.” Go to the site for recipes. 

Muffin Tin Mania & Green Smoothie Cups Love this site. Of course this recipe in particular caught my eye!

Java Chocolate Smoothie Cups

  • 3 cups strongly brewed coffee, cooled 
  • 2 bananas 
  • 1/2 cup chocolate hemp protein or other protein powder of choice 
  • 1/2 cup almonds 
  • 1/3 cup pitted dried dates, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place coffee, bananas, protein powder, almonds, dates, extract and cinnamon and in a blender container. Turn blender onto its low setting and process for 20 seconds. Switch to the high setting and blend until dates and almonds are pulverized, about 1 minute.

Divide mixture among 12 medium sized muffin cups. Place trays in the freezer and freeze until solid. Unmold coffee cups and store in the freezer in a zip-top bag.

When it comes time to make a smoothie, simply place a couple of frozen coffee cups in a blender along with about 1 1/2 cups liquid (I use 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup water) and blend until smooth. If your blender does not have a lot of power, you may want to carefully slice the frozen cups into halves or quarters before blending. I need to try this one!


Simple ideas worth considering:

Falafels are one of our favorites. I don’t like to make them because they are usually fried. I saw several recipes that put the mix into a muffin tin & baked them at 375 for 20 minutes. One recipe scooped the falafel mixture into each cup & the other one rolled them & put each ball into a cup. These could be frozen to be used as needed.

Any favorite meatloaf, vegetarian or vegan loaf recipe could be put into a muffin tin. You can even put the sauce on top. These could also be frozen.

Poached Eggs: foodnetwork “Spoon 1 tablespoon hot water into each muffin cup. Crack 1 egg into each cup; season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees F to desired doneness, 12 to 14 minutes. Carefully remove with a spoon.”

Use a mini-muffin pan for some of the recipes. Especially good for appetizers, mini-appetites 🙂 & children’s portions.

For stuffed peppers, you can stand each one in a muffin tin cup, then bake!

Make your favorite soup, pour into muffin cups & freeze. Pop out each frozen “soup muffin” & store in a freezer container. Take out & warm as needed!

Invest in regular, jumbo & mini sized muffin tins. The jumbo size holds one cup of recipe per muffin cup. Wilton Muffin Tins


Now I have to decide which recipe I am going to try! Until next week…Mary 🙂

***Update: I did make this recipe for Thanksgiving: Vegan Green Bean Casserole by Minimalist Baker It was by far the best green bean casserole I have eaten. I added another cup of mushrooms to the recipe & for the vegetable broth I used “Not-Chick’n Bullion Cubes”. It is more labor intensive than opening cans, but it is worth it.


Resources: For more recipes & ideas.

  • 30 Surprising Things You Can Make With Your Muffin Tin Great ideas!
  • 19 Portable Meals You Can Make in a Muffin Tin: from Greatist.com “All muffins, all the time. That’s our new rallying cry, especially now that we’ve discovered muffins can be healthy. But did you know that your muffin pan is secretly a multitasking tool? Yes, really. Think beyond blueberry muffins and vanilla cupcakes, as this tin can make any number of single-serving meals and snacks. There’s so much to love here: These recipes are portable, portion-size, and photogenic. (Instagram-worthy snacks on the go? Sign us up!) Plus, so many make easy party foods and can be made ahead of time.”
  • 12 Delicious Vegan Recipes You Can Make in a Muffin Pan from ChooseVeg.com
  • 14 Meals in a Muffin Tin from Get Healthy U: “Dust off your muffin tin because it is time to get cooking with these 14 healthy muffin tin recipes! These muffin tin meals are an easy way to create unique and versatile dishes that are perfect for just one or a big group. These tasty morsels are filled with fresh ingredients that your tummy and body will love. Many of these healthy muffin recipes make incredible appetizers too, so let’s have a party!”
  • 15 savory recipes to make in a muffin tin right now from HellaWella: “If you live in an apartment, you probably already know all too well that space comes at a premium. Not everyone has room to store a vast assortment of kitchen gadgets and essentials, which means some of them need to multitask. Take the muffin tin, for instance. It’s not just for making muffins anymore. We found you 15 savory treats to whip up in a muffin tin, and they travel beautifully. These nibbles are sure to be a hit at any indoor or outdoor get-together.”
  • Healthy Muffin Tin Recipes “Find healthy, delicious muffin tin recipes including lasagnas, oatmeal, pie and more. Healthier recipes, from the food and nutrition experts at EatingWell.”
  • Muffin Tin Mania & Green Smoothie Cups  
  • Time-Saving Tip: Freeze Smoothie Ingredients in Muffin Tins:
  • 50 Things to Make in a Muffin Pan “Every dish is more fun when it’s mini…”
  • 1000+ Jumbo Muffin Tin Recipes on Pinterest!