Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sustainable Products for a Growing Market in Recycled Items: Uncommon Goods


Dave's Dinky
Our Woofing Wednesday "Cover Dog"

My gang is all pooped out from the dog park today, so Dinky is here to do the Woofing Wednesday honors. His owner tells me that he is so smart, if he had thumbs, he could drive.

As always, my Woofing Wednesday post is short and sweet and provides you with 2 things:
  • a cute pup photo or two
  • a great website find of mine--one you might enjoy perusing in your free time.
Uncommon Goods is a catalog and a website, replete with recycled and sustainable products. The site covers many product areas such as gifts, personal, home and family, pets, children--tons of interesting products to browse. They have some cute pet and pet themed items, and some great gag gifts, as well.

The best thing about the site is that everything is made from something that had a former life; it's all recycled or repurposed or reused in some way. Zipper pulls form a clever looking bracelet and recycled glass makes many beautiful items. Enjoy shopping and remember, while you're there, the holidays are coming. Take notes. This could be a good one stop shop.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

7 Ways to Bake Regularly and Still Maintain Your Waistline

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Apple Tart= 1/2 of an Apple Pie


Becoming an empty nester has certainly changed my lifestyle in many ways. I’m still in denial about being 50-something, and thankfully not many people believe it when I tell them. I secretly love those people. That’s beside the point though. The purpose of this post is to share a peek into the ways I’ve managed to stay in my size (do I dare say it?)—I’ll skip that part. Suffice it to say I’m slender, at least by most people’s standards.
Okay, I got past that admission. Whew! I get asked about my diet secrets pretty regularly. People who have known me a long time want to know how I’ve maintained a stable weight after 3 kids, while other menopausal women struggle with theirs. So, recently I began keeping a mental tab on what I do, sort of watching my habits. A list has evolved that appears to be my “plan”, if you can call it that.
I also started reading a good bit on the subject and found that often my eating habits match those of the advice given in women’s magazines and by health experts. I guess I have my mom to thank for the eating habits she drilled into me as a child. Except for one: “Clean your plate.” That will forever remain in my head. Our mothers’ voices are in most women’s heads, and mine is no different. This is a good place to start off my list of, well, let’s call them healthy dessert eating habits.
  1. Bake half batches: Because I have a sweet tooth, I now am much more careful about baking whole batches of baked goods, unless company or the kids are on their way. Like today, I baked a 1-crust Apple Tart. It’s not rocket science; I simply used one crust, added ½ the amount of apples, flour, cinnamon and low-fat spray butter, and viola’, I have ½ a pie. I call it a Tart; I’m not sure what Martha Stewart would term it. Doesn’t matter, anyway. The point is, there’s only ½ of a pie for me and hubby to eat—assuring we don’t extend ourselves beyond our belt sizes.
  2. Freezing most of what you bake is portion control: I make banana muffins quite frequently, as they are one of my husband’s favorites, and the healthiest of his baked breakfast choices. Check out my Organic Banana Bread/Muffin recipe and see for yourself. Freezing much of the batch allows you to thaw and eat only 1 or 2 at a time so you don’t overdo it.
  3. Buying single portions: An occasional splurge at a nearby bakery is nearly always done with a little trickery. Instead of buying what appears to be a relatively small item, I purchase a single piece. When hubby and I split this we really don’t have to feel guilty, too full, or for that matter, worry about our waistlines.
  4. Consider serving dessert as a weekend-only thing: I know this sounds painful, but it will save you time in the kitchen, help maintain your weight, and let’s not forget your heart health. We all know that our favorite desserts are not great for our health when eaten daily. Pies, cakes, cookies (the top 3) all work to the detriment of our heart health and contribute to high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. Besides, it will give you something to look forward to on the weekend, in addition to your time off with family.
  5. Choosing healthier desserts: If you’ve made a habit of having dessert every night, and there’s no turning back now, consider alternating healthier options in. Try sorbet (see my instructions for homemade organic sorbet), custards (high in protein and Calcium), gelatin salads with fruit mixed in, gelatin parfaits, fresh fruit, fruit salad, or fruit over frozen, non-fat yogurt.
  6. Be tricky: Pick your times to bake—when company is expected, on a friend’s birthday, for special occasions, and for family gatherings and holidays. You can be creative and find many more excuses to bake. The point is to give most of the sweets away, while still having your fun baking them.
  7. Baked gifts come from the heart: Baking and making homemade specialties gives the gift of your time. For most of us, this is a very special gift indeed. We’re all strapped for time in this fast-paced society that we live in. Baking a special gift shows your willingness to share your time. Compound that with the fact that you got your baking “fix” in and you’re good to go. You’ll feel great when you give your baked goodie to a friend or family member and they fawn all over it, and call you later to ask for the recipe. There’s your motivation. For a special, homemade gift, try my house special--Organic Cinnamon Raisin Bread.
  8. Share with a friend: Out to eat and can't resist the dessert tray? Choose one and order 2 spoons or forks.
Have you and your partner found other ways to keep your sweet tooth under control? Share them with us. You can drop me a comment at the link at the bottom. Maybe I'll share your tips here on the blog.

If you're like me and enjoy cooking with apples, this apple and potato peeler/slicer and corer is a must have. It takes all of 3 seconds to peel, core and slice up an apple with this baby. I couldn't get by without it:



Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Energy Star Laptop and a Recycled Carrying Bag:













(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009

My New Energy Star Laptop






Eco-Friendly Bag is Made
of Recycled Plastic Bottles

Could I be any more excited?!!!

In planning an upcoming trip to visit my boys, I realized that the time had come to snuggle up to the idea of a laptop. Having been a desktop blogger for all this time, I'll clearly have some adapting to do.

What have I been waiting for? Blogging on the road seems so productive, yet I have not been able to bring myself to part with those green bucks in my wallet.

Finally I have the motivation: visiting the boys! My solution: I found an Energy Star Rated laptop and bought a carrying bag made out of recycled water bottles. How cool is that?! Check out the photo...not too shabby, huh?

No, it's not one of those classy New York style brief case/tote bag looking things. They're elegant and beautiful, but not my style. Somehow they just don't work with my blue jeans, flip flops and 3 active dogs always tagging along beside me.

I actually have a cotton corduroy tote bag that I LOVE. I simply needed a padded pouch for the laptop--for protection. My solution was frugal and recycled--about as green as it comes.

Next task on my TO DO LIST: Learn to use all my blogging functions on the laptop. This means drawing from 99% online resources, which hasn't been a habit so far. My hard drive has held photos galore, but I don't dare clog up this baby with speed-diminishing files that need so much Gig. Speed=battery time, so I'll need to focus on more time-efficient methods of storage. So Photobucket annd Flickr here I come. Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted--pun intended.

Here's another recycled option:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Adding Fiber to Your Diet: Some Sneaky Strategies

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(c) Photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Toni's Favorite
Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Shhh! Don't tell my kids or my husband any of this. Promise? Okay, here goes. For years, I have been adding fiber to my family's diet. They don't even know about it. Well, that is, until they read this. Oops!

I'm counting on them realizing that if they never knew the stuff was in their food before, it won't matter now. Hope I'm right! So, how do I add fiber? Here's some tips:
  • Stirring Benefiber into foods is my easiest strategy. You can put it into cooked foods also, while preparing them. Basically, anything that you can stir or blend can have Benefiber added. Just follow the directions and your instincts to decide how much to include in your recipes. Try it in soups, stews, sauces, muffin mixes, baked desserts, milkshakes, smoothies, juices, scrambled eggs, etc.
  • Exchanging white flour for whole wheat in many recipes is an easy way to add protein and fiber to the recipe. If you're not sure about the taste of whole wheat, try substituting small amounts at first, and gradually build up. I now make our banana bread mostly out of whole wheat flour and no one has been the wiser.
  • Mashed and roasted potatoes have much more nutritional value and fiber when the skin is left on. Just be sure to wash them well before cooking.
  • Do you make garlic or other flavored butters? Add a little Benefiber to these also; no one will know your secret.
  • When making meatballs and meatloaves, place leftover, cooked veggies in the blender and give them a whir. Then stir the mixture into your meat and enjoy the extra flavor along with the added fiber and vitamins.
  • Special occasions call for special foods. At our house, Apple Pie is one of the regulars. Making apple pie or apple crisp with the skin on the apples is another great way to increase fiber, and it's rather tasty, too.
  • Adding granola, flax seeds, wheat germ or other nuts to breads, salads, oatmeal and yogurt adds a nice crunch to otherwise soft foods, while giving extra Omega fatty acids and fiber.
  • Tucking a small serving of nuts into your kids' lunch boxes is a great way to do the same. For more healthy lunch ideas, check out Organic Lunches on the Go, and Green Up Your Back to School Lunches with Creative Choices.
  • Do you know what the top four foods on the fiber scale are? (1) Avocado--think Guacamole with Benefiber stirred in; (2) Black Beans--makes great soup and you can still add the Benefiber; (3) Bran cereal--If your family turns their nose up, just sneak it into your bread maker's raisin bread recipe and they'll love it!; (4) Broccoli--served cold with ranch dip that has--you guessed it--Benefiber stirred right in.
  • Finally, everybody has an occasional sweet tooth. When you make cookies, thinking high fiber takes you to Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Again, don't forget to add the extra fiber and use at least 1/2 whole wheat flour for the recipe. They'll never know the difference. Here's my slam dunk recipe that my family loves: Toni's Favorite Organic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. (Add nuts for an extra punch!)
I hope you've learned a tip or two that is new to you. Remember that fiber is a great cancer preventative, and is important for keeping your intestinal tract cleaned up and healthy. It helps to carry out toxins that might otherwise stick to the lining of your insides and be reabsorbed. So put this broom to work sweeping your insides. Good luck, and toss me a bone if you have any ideas of your own. The comment link is at the bottom of the post, next to the little envelope icon. I'd love some new sneaky strategies!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Benefits of Having a Dog

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Brent and Bernie
Brent Shares Affection and Stress Relief with Bernie

You've all heard the research so I won't bore you with it. My Wednesday post is sadly lacking in Woofing Wednesday personality, so I'm sneaking in this photo and a reminder. Adopting a dog is good for everyone. No kill shelters are falling by the wayside with government cuts. One nearby shelter just came close to shutting down and the hysteria was unimaginable. The rescue groups came to the aid and hopefully things are getting back on track.

The fact is dogs are good for your heart and your stress level. If you have love to give, think about sharing your home with a furry friend. He will return your affection in many multiples over the coming years.

On another note, I've had a bit of interest from cancer patients in finding online discussion forums. For those of you who seek a support group online, discussion forums for cancer patients and survivors is thought to be highly therapeutic. Here's one I found through Twitter that appears to be quite brisk with ideas on alternative medicine, while combined with traditional medicine: Surviving Cancer.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Anti-Cancer Lifestyle Choices: Part III

Image credit 2K Embroidery

I trust that most of you reading this today have read Parts I and II and are waiting to hear my own personal anti-cancer regimen. This has been a tough call for me to write about. Not just the memories of the scare and the fight, but owning up to what I do, and do not do, to prevent cancer's recurrence. What the hay, here goes.

First let me say that I don't personally classify myself as traditional, in terms of medicine, yet I also don't really think of myself as holistic or maintain a naturopathic physician's number on my cell phone. I guess you could say I combine the elements that feel right to me. How do they feel right? Instincts, intuition, analysis of my lifestyle leading up to the cancer--I'm not really exactly sure, but I do trust my inner voice. I hope that is a good thing.

My dietary and other lifestyle changes that came as a result of the cancer, didn't just slam dunk one day. A few did, upon diagnosis, become quickly a part of my new practices. But many were gained along the journey from reading, talking to other cancer survivors, and research. I probably did not cover everything, but here's what I can recall changing:
  1. Concentration on cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli. I could eat it every day; I LOVE it!
  2. A secondary concentration on berries 3-5 times a week. Berries are notoriously expensive, at least here in Central Florida where we don't grow them. Clearly I'm not focused on being a Locovore (dedicated to eating locally grown foods), but that is primarily because my main goal is to prevent the cancer from returning, not to save gasoline. Disagree with me if you like, but I'll take life over a shortage of petrol any day. That's not to say, of course, that I haven't made changes in my driving and personal habits to decrease my petrochemical use.
  3. Increasing my tomato intake was no trouble at all, along with switching to healthier oils.
  4. Increasing my onion and garlic intake to daily servings has been easy, since they flavor so many foods well. However, I also added Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract capsules to assure a therapeutic level.
  5. Wheat Grass juice proved to be less than easy to get and drink fresh, so I resorted to Kyo-Green, a supplement that you stir into juice. It includes wheat grass, barley grass, chlorella, and kelp, among other nutritional supplements. While many of the powdered forms of wheat grass are terribly unpalatable, I found Kyo-Green to be quite acceptable when stirred into a glass of apple juice.
  6. Daily juicing was part of my regimen initially, and continued for a few months after the radiation therapy. I chose a blend of mostly apple and carrot juices, adding a small amount of dark, leafy greens to each batch for extra B vitamins.
  7. Reducing red meat to no more than 1 serving per week and cutting many meat servings in half has allowed for an extra serving of vegetables with many meals. Finally, I enjoy fish at least once a week, even if only smoked salmon on an organic bagel with cream cheese (one of my favorite lunches, topped with sliced red onions).
  8. Increasing fiber in my diet has not only had the obvious effect, but also helps to sweep the lining of the intestines--a known caner preventer. Watch for my upcoming post on strategies for increasing the fiber in your diet.
  9. After reading The Hundred Year Lie, I did a major turnaround in my eating and went about 90% organic at home. I'll admit that first pantry clean out was expensive to replace, but there was something therapeutic in that exercise that had a healing effect on my mental state. I felt I had done something truly significant to assure my future good health. It may sound crazy, but the simple act of dispensing of unhealthy foods conjured up images of growing old with my husband and grandchildren playing at my feet. Hmmm?!!
  10. I replaced most of the plastic containers that were used for cooking or freezing foods, when I learned about the increased danger of heating and freezing plastic. I use mostly glass now, and never cook in plastic or freeze water bottles.
  11. Water is now taken in reusable bottles as often as possible, with bottled water used about 80% less.
  12. Soda and other products with High Fructose Corn Syrup are no longer a part of my diet.
  13. Making the switch to alkaline foods proved challenging and is an ongoing daily consideration. I keep the list in the kitchen and tip the scale toward the alkaline side for a reasonable approach. Most challenging is the constant battle with my sweet tooth. Sugar is acidic and I try to make up for some daily sugar with more daily alkaline foods.
  14. Daily exercise includes walking or biking with the dogs, dog agility training (they can run much faster than I can) and water sports. Tanner loves to race with me in our lap pool. Sometimes he wins and sometimes I win. I have the advantage of being able to dive farther or he would win all the time.
  15. Household plants were switched out to include more of the ones that have an air-cleaning and filtering capability.
  16. Personal care products have also gone organic, or at least all-natural, to assure less absorption of trace amounts of toxins. I was especially pleased to lose the lipstick with food colorings, parabens and preservatives, and I am thrilled with my new brand.
  17. Focusing on natural fibers, I am making a concerted effort to use more cotton and less polyester, along with the other bad boys of the fabric industry.
  18. Organic pest control and Organic lawn care products have been introduced to eliminate toxic elements being added to my primary environment. This proved to be much easier than I thought it would, as there are an increasing number of companies offering such services. Isn't it great that we can fertilize with fish emulsion and worm guts and get green grass instead of blue-stained sidewalks.
  19. All natural cleaning products, soaps and detergents are used to the extent possible. Vinegar, borax, baking soda, lemon juice and lemon oil are my primary cleaning crew now. Here in hot, humid, Central Florida, where mold and mildew are rampant, an occasional dose of cleanser or bleach is needed to kill the spores, particularly in the shower grout. I'd love to learn about other ways to do this. Anybody got a cure for mildew?
  20. Finally, switching my pets to organic food and all-natural shampoos, flea and tick control assures that I'm not allowing those toxins into my environment also. The flea prevention has been the most challenging, but my current program is working well. You can read my program at Flea Season is Here: What's a Pup to Do? at my other blog, All Things Dog Blog, where I enjoy sharing tips for happy dogs and happy families.
That may not be everything, but it is certainly the lion's share. To put it in a nutshell, I eat healthier, eliminate much toxic exposure from both foods and environment, and use personal care and cleaning products that leave no toxic residues on me or my home.

While I do not claim to be a purist, I can say that I am now a cancer survivor, 2 1/2 years after the fact. I plan to be saying this again in another 2 1/2 years, and eventually living the pantry cleaning dream of growing old and watching my grand kids play. I hope you'll still be reading and can join me in being cancer free.
FYI, juicers die hard and fast, unless you buy the champion. This is mine:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Anti Cancer Lifestyle Choices: Part II

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Eating Healthy Must be Paired with a Positive Outlook:

Another Lifestyle Choice


While blogging about my lifestyle change, organic cooking adventures, and even my dogs, I have created a new therapy for myself--one that seems to be working. It's sort of a blogging hermitage--my time to think, create and send positive thoughts to myself and those of you who care to read. A former business partner, Kim, spoke often about the mental training she did to aid in her own efforts to heal her cancer. I've known since Day One that my mental state is second only to my physical hardiness to fight the fight.

That in mind, I try to find time each day to relish what is good about my life. My kids, my husband, my dogs, my active lifestyle, my parents and friends all give me joy in their own unique ways.

Reading, whether it be for pleasure or learning, is an activity that makes me feel alive with either the story or the new information. Both have their place, although these days I spend more time reading non-fiction of the sort that bloggers can learn from. When I began this blogging hermitage I knew only how to sign onto my email account and perform a Google search. I have come a long way. Did I say "Geek"? Nah! I haven't come that far.

So, why do I call it a hermitage? Perhaps it is obvious. Perhaps not. I spend more time alone these days, yet not at all lonely. Quite the opposite, in fact, as I am inspired by everything around me to share more of what I feel might be helpful to someone--whomever might read this and need what they find in these words--today. I have no delusions of becoming the next Steven Covey, yet my words may be comforting or helpful in some way to someone. Sharing my experiences helps me as much as those who may find it useful.

Why have I rambled on about my lack of notoriety and interest in becoming such a person? It's not about the destination; it truly is a JOURNEY. In some ways I feel that cancer infected my mind as well. Perhaps it is a process that all cancer patients go through. My mental healing has also been a process, one that is occurring day by day with the many things I do that affect my outlook on life:
  • Having goals
  • Loving someone
  • Nurturing something--a husband, a garden, a student, a blog, a dog
  • Eating well to improve my physical health
  • Exercise that is enjoyable
  • Creating something
  • Learning new things or just new ways of doing old things
  • Watching my children grow, each in their own way
  • Planning my future with my husband
Each of these and many more, I am sure, affect my mental well-being and in turn, affect my physical health. They are so interconnected that I now believe one cannot survive without the other. I believe this because I have seen what I can overcome. You see, for me, this is not Round 1. It is Round 2.

My first major visit to the doctors who hand out life sentences was 10 years ago. I had suffered for some 20 years with odd, quirky irritations that served only to assure my doctors that I was a hypochondriac--until a few of these irritations happened concurrently and in a much more significant manner. Long story short, I learned then that I had Multiple Sclerosis. I'll wrap this post up with a promise to finish up my Anti Cancer Lifestyle tips in Part III, coming up. Then I'll move on to the MS, as I'm sure I've now opened a can of worms, as well as another diet to talk about.

It's all good. I'm healthy, productive, active and ambulatory. I couldn't ask for more out of this multi-challenged body. Note to self: Organic fruit salad for lunch today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Anti Cancer Lifestyle Choices: Part I

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© photo copyright Alan Boyko 2009
Biking with My Dogs: Great Therapy!
Woofing Wednesday is back after a brief interlude last week. A few wary commenters asked "Where's the dogs?" Their place in my Anti Cancer Lifestyle is so front-and-center that I cannot leave them out today.
I can speak from experience on the topic of avoiding cancer, as one of the lucky ones. For many people, finding cancer along with malignant cells in their lymph nodes is more than just a sobering acknowledgment of a long battle to come. It makes you take stock of your future plans, your daily activities, and their place in your priorities. It's a wake up call, loud and clear, that you need to clean up your act if you want to live to play with your grandchildren and enjoy the other pleasures of retirement.

Having experienced cancer, radiation treatment, and all the baggage that comes with it, focusing on a new and healthier diet turned out to be a positive addition to my TO DO LIST. At first I thought that changing how I eat would be hard for me, my family and my daily schedule. How would I find the time in my busy days to learn about organic foods and seek out the nutritional supplements that were right for me, much less learn to cook and shop differently?

As it turns out, I must be deadline oriented. Maybe I would have been a good newspaper writer, but hold your offers. I have no interest in working for corporate America. I love having creative control over my subject matter, even as I sometimes ramble on about my dogs or my morning bike ride. Further, those morning bike rides and the dogs have become my daily respite from the pressures of my child-rearing days, as well as the cancer worries. Tanner, Xena and Oliver are my therapists, giving unconditional love in copious amounts.

I am often asked what I changed about my eating habits when I got the big C diagnosis. I'll save that for another post (Part II) and offer today a more mainstream view: The Anti-Cancer Diet. Here's a quote of particular interest from this webpage. If you don't go to the link, at least read on...
Is it better to cook vegetables or eat them raw? Only one vegetable (and it’s technically a fruit) is a significantly stronger cancer-fighter when cooked: the tomato. Cooking makes the antioxidant lycopene more readily available, so everything from stewed tomatoes to tomato sauce is likely to offer more protection than raw tomatoes. For most vegetables, however, cooking can remove some important nutrients–unless you use the right method. Boiling leaches out most water-soluble nutrients, including the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as folate. Steaming or baking are better choices because they preserve more disease-fighting substances. But if you use a recipe that calls for boiling vegetables, save the water for stock to use in a soup or sauce and you’ll take advantage of any nutrients removed from the vegetables.
What about organic versus conventional?
There are plenty of reasons to choose organic, from promoting a healthier environment to supporting local farmers. Now there’s evidence you may also get more cancer protection. In findings reported this year at the University of California at Davis, some organically grown produce was found to have higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids than the conventionally grown stuff. (Experts theorize that pesticide-free plants may produce more antioxidants to ward off pests.) The scientists looked at three foods: Organic corn had 59 percent higher levels of cancer-fighting flavonoids; marionberries were 50 percent higher; and strawberries, 19 percent. Also, organic produce has lower levels of pesticide residues. Conventional crops were six times more likely to contain residues in a recent study.

Source: Care 2 Green Living
Join me on Friday
for a few of my own regimen changes--
the big admission.
I've dreaded this post for over a year,
but I suppose it's inevitable.
Time to get on with it!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Easy Beef Barley Soup: Organic and Delicious!

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2009
Organic Beef Barley Soup

It's the weekend as I write this, and I've spent some time on the water today. After a thunderstorm, soaked and cold, it always feels good to eat nice, warm comfort food. A hearty, soup and warm, homemade bread is my first choice. Here's today's pick, and this one is a man-pleaser, if you're cooking for a special guy. It earned the thumbs up from my husband, a coveted award at my home.


My trademark recipes are make-ahead items, allowing me to spend my time with family or friends when they visit to join us for a meal. This soup can all be prepared ahead, and then combined at the last minute in a final, short simmer before serving.

I like to pair the soup with warm, homemade bread from my bread maker. Most bread makers have a setting that allows you to place ingredients into the breadmaker ahead, while the cooking starts later. All you have to do is determine when you'd like it to be done. Warm bread is definitely a nice complement to soup.

As long as you choose a bread that doesn't have milk or other ingredients that spoil quickly, you can add your ingredients and set the timer, making sure that the yeast in on top, in a pocket of dry ingredients. It is imperative that the yeast not combine with wet ingredients until the bread maker begins to mix the ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 lb. Organic Beef Stew Meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 32-ounce containers Organic Beef Broth, or homemade equivalent

1 medium Organic Onion, minced
1/2 bunch of Organic Celery, chopped
5-6 Organic Carrots, shredded or cut very small

2-3 Cups Organic Barley, prepared
Organic Pepper
Sea Salt

Instructions:
  1. Prepare the barley, using beef broth instead of water. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
  2. Brown the beef pieces quickly on medium heat, and then simmer for 10 minutes in a small amount of the broth. Season the meat while browning with salt and pepper.
  3. Cool, strain and refrigerate the meat and broth. The broth will help the meat retain its moisture.
  4. When you're ready to make the soup, remove the barley to bring to room temperature.
  5. Combine meat, broth, and vegetables in a pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Add barley when the soup boils and lower heat to simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with warm bread.
Sure, you can make this recipe with ingredients that are not organic. So, what will the difference be, you may ask. Your vegetables will not have been grown with pesticides and herbicides, which will then collect in the lining of your bowels and clog up your liver. The cow will not have been loaded with and antibiotics, which will add to your resistance of these important drugs.


But there's more. The flavor of your soup will be noticeably more vibrant, perhaps due to the lack of toxic elements potentially masking flavor. It's hard to say why, but organic foods have a more vivid and rich flavor which you won't be able to deny, if ever you do a comparison.

Try one sometime. Buy a 1/2 gallon of traditionally produced milk, and a 1/2 gallon of organic milk. Make sure they are the same fat content so that you are comparing apples to apples. Now pour a glass of each and place a sticker on the bottom of the organic milk cup. Play the magician's game and mix the two cups up on the table or counter. Taste and pick your favorite.

My family members are all milk lovers. They chose the organic milk over the regular. Check out my interview with another milk lover, where I got more positive input on the flavor of organic milk. Hope to see you soon in the dairy section. Don't forget your coupons. There are tons of $1 off coupons for organic dairy product brands online. Just print and shop.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

National Organic Harvest Month is a Bountiful Rainbow of Colors

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Shop Healthy by Varying Your Color Choices


Let's celebrate National Organic Harvest Month by learning a little more about what is in season in September in much of North America:
  1. Cauliflower

  2. Lemons

  3. Corn

  4. Oranges

  5. Bell peppers (yellow, green, red, orange)

  6. Fennel

  7. Zucchini

  8. Okra

  9. Mushrooms

  10. Tomatoes

How's that for a color spectrum? A while back I got an email from a reader who was concerned about eating a balanced color variety, while eating local foods. Looks to me from this list like that's not really a problem in September.

Why was she concerned about the color of her produce? The more red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables you eat, the more beta carotene and antioxidants you get in your diet. These are cancer preventers that help boot the free radicals--the bad boys in your bloodstream. Your diet is your primary defense mechanism for ganging up on these tough guys. Go for it.

Don't get me wrong. The green veggies have their place too. Their vitamins cover the full range (especially the B vitamins that are so very important for memory and mental functions) and are extremely important to balance your diet.

So, what's your goal? Vary your colors throughout each week. When you shop, try to select a veggie/fruit in each color and create meals around this assortment. This is the best way to assure you are giving your body everything it needs to keep you healthy.

I like to think of a box of crayons when I'm shopping for produce. Every color in the box should be represented in my basket of purchases. It's a good technique to help you get the balanced diet your body is crying out for.

Need help through the seasons? Try this pocket guide. You can buy it right here and have it in just a few days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Danger Alert: ADD/ADHD Medications Often Abused by College Students

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Medication Abuse on College Campuses is a Huge Problem

I'm probably going to catch it from my kids for this post. Yet they know and have commented to me about this problem. It's more than just abuse. The students who have ADD or ADHD may be taking extra doses of their stimulant medications (Adderall, Ritalin and Dexedrine) to help them get through long nights of cramming for exams. But there's more.

The added danger is when they share these meds with other students, particularly students who may be taking medicines which do not combine safely with these stimulants. Another problem is when kids combine ADD stimulant medications with their own drugs, only to reduce the therapeutic effect of their prescribed medications. Finally, what happens when a kid with a racing heart problem takes a stimulant? This can spell disaster. It's a vicious cycle that most college students do not realize the impact of.

Sure, they've heard the ramblings from the Student Health departments of their respective schools. The problem is they don't really believe it can happen to them. College students often believe they will live forever; after all, they're still young and healthy.

They may not know of the student who experienced a heart attack when too many stimulant medications were combined. Or perhaps they are not aware that when they combine a multitude of medications meant for various symptoms, the end result can be a synergy that is dangerous when they get behind the wheel.

If your kids take these commonly-used medications for ADD or ADHD, teach them from an early age the potential dangers of overusing and combining them. Also make sure they understand the severe health problems they could be responsible for if they share these medications with others whose health history and prescription medications are unknown to them. Education is the key. Start now.

One final helpful tip. If your student takes medications away to college, help keep their medications safe. Provide your student with a lockable container (toolbox or tackle box will work just fine) for medications. This will help assure that meds don't get stolen--another problem occurring on college campuses in growing numbers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Little Time for Labor Day Cooking? Here's a Quick Labor Day Cookout

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If you're looking for some ideas for a Labor Day Cookout, look no further. I just posted my award-winning Brownie recipe over at Carrie McClain's blog, Carrie's Kitchen Creations, where she's always cooking up something good. This recipe is easy to make ahead and have ready when friends arrive.

Quick and Organic: Your Healthy Labor Day Cookout

Menu:
Take note that this cookout is my signature style--all preparation and most cooking can be done in advance, giving you time to mingle and truly be the hostess. Get started right now. Why miss out on the fun at the party?
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Organic Ground Beef for each 4 burgers required
  • 4-6 Cloves of Fresh Organic Garlic, pressed, per pound of ground beef
  • 1 Organic Egg, per pound of ground beef
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt per pound of ground beef
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Organic Pepper per pound of ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoons Organic Barbecue sauce, per pound of ground beef
  • 4 Fresh buns for each pound of ground beef, sliced.
  • 2 qts. Fresh, Organic Vegetable Sticks for Grilling. We like carrots, red onions, red peppers, yellow and orange peppers, green peppers, broccoli (slices work best), cauliflower (bite sized), yellow squash, zucchini squash, and green onions.
  • Organic Italian salad dressing
  • Sea salt and Organic pepper
  • Fresh Organic (or local, if organic is not available) Watermelon, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Red Grapes and Pineapple, cut into small wedges
  • 1 pkg. short bamboo skewers
  • Organic Honey
  • Organic Curry powder
  • 2 Cups Organic plain Yogurt
Instructions:
  1. Combine pressed garlic, egg, sea salt, pepper, and BBQ sauce with ground beef.
  2. Stir well and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Form patties and store covered for cooking later.
  4. Thread the fruit onto the small skewers, alternating colors.
  5. Mix 2 cups of yogurt with about 3-4 tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of curry. Taste test for your liking. Serve in a medium bowl with a gravy ladle for drizzling over the fruit, or use dipping dishes, such as sushi bowls.
  6. Before grilling, line a grill basket with tin foil and spray with Organic cooking spray.
  7. Grill vegetables to taste (generally still slightly crispy), seasoning with salt and pepper and basting with Italian dressing.
  8. Grill the burgers and vegetables, remembering to toast the buns at the end.
  9. Let's eat!
Don't forget the mood music. If you're like me and enjoy "easy listening", check out Eco Dater for a free download of easy listening music mix. While you're there, sign up, if you're single. Who knows what you might find!

Need a grill basket? Click this ad to check out Amazon's assortment:


Non-Toxic Strategies for our ADD/ADHD World

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2008


All-Natural Halloween Candies
and Other Goodies Provide Healthy Fun

Am I getting out of my niche here....just a bit? Maybe not. I've been there. That 20 years of experience with a kid who was often perceived as ADHD, even though he is not, gives me the background to write about our own challenges and solutions. I'm not trying to replace your pediatrician. Absolutely get more than one opinion if you are concerned about your own child's learning, social or behavioral problems. Consult a qualified psychologist if you have already encountered significant issues with school. There is no time like the present to get a definitive diagnosis and take action.

So what action can you take? Ritalin? Adderall? These may be the best course of action for certain cases, but please understand that not every child needs them. Diet can often significantly change a child's behavior, and therefore his ability to learn, focus, concentrate and learn social skills that will help him mature gracefully. After all, making friends is a key to life's abundance. But I digress.

My last post promised a few strategies to deal with these issues, whether or not you choose to use medication. With proven studies that many children react to certain preservatives, food colorings, artificial additives, artificial flavorings, etc., you have the opportunity to find out if any of these present issues for your own child. It's easy to test for their presence, and relatively simple to make the necessary changes, when you find a problem substance.

In my family, the offender was food coloring. Some find it to be BHT, a common preservative. There are others as well. That's what the Feingold program is all about--helping you sort out the possible food additives that can cause these behavioral problems, and then eliminate them from your child's diet.

It has been quite a few years since I have had to employ these, but they still stick in the back of my memory. It's a mom thing, I suppose. Here's some that I remember best:

  • Every day that my child ate a solid breakfast, things clearly went smoother. This was a key that I learned early on, and focused on getting a filling and healthy balance into that tummy before school.

  • When it comes to school, first and foremost, I recommend that you meet with your child's teacher and counselor about foods that are served at school, in addition to lunch. Coming to terms on how to replace reward treats, party foods and such for your child need to keep in mind age and potential embarrassment.

  • My solution for these times was always to volunteer to provide the beverages. Since food coloring consumption is much higher with drinks, these are the worst offenders, therefore the ones I chose to target in preventing problems. By bringing 7-Up or homemade lemonade I was able to make the kids all happy, and keep my child from drinking 2 glasses of fruit punch or orange soda that would end up disrupting the whole party.

  • At parties for candy-related holidays, such as Easter and Halloween, I ordered and donated naturally colored M&M's, real licorice sticks, natural chocolate candies, and naturally-colored/flavored lollipops. The teachers loved this and I especially enjoyed having my child return from school in normal mode.

  • Our kids' Halloween take was traded in a game of "this for that" every year after the big night. My job was to make sure I had plenty of tempting goodies for that trading session. Sometimes a few dollars were thrown in to the mix to buy out much of the big batch, eliminating a good deal of the sugar as well. You can get more ideas at my previous post, Taming the Candy Monster.

  • Packing lunch for my child worked well to provide the needed balance, along with a treat or two to keep the sweet tooth at bay. My goal was to try to avoid the common trades that often occur at the lunchroom tables. When they did happen, it was generally obvious to me after school. Amazing what a difference the right foods were making.

  • After-school snacks needed to be filling and satisfying, to assure that hunger would not ensue when my kid was visiting friends. I also spoke with some of the parents, talking about the foods to be avoided.

  • Inviting friends to our home was generally the best practice to assure that acceptable snack foods were served during play dates.

  • Likewise, overnight stays were mostly at our home until my child was old enough to make better decisions about food choices. Tip: If you want your child to be invited back, his or her ability to choose well is imperative. Behavior following a bad food choice could make or break the parent's willingness to invite your child again.

  • Plenty of physical activity and mental challenges are needed by most ADD or ADHD children. While my child did not suffer from these conditions, the same solutions worked well. With a bright, curious child, satisfying the need to learn and get answers keeps the mind busy and burns off much of the stress of a boring day at school. Sad to say, but many of them are just that. Adding additional challenge with athletics and social activities will help your child focus better at school.

  • Learning to cook your child's favorite foods without the offending substances will show your child a commitment to his/her happiness and success that will pay off in more ways that you can know. Involving your child, if old enough, in this process, will also send a strong message about the importance of follow-through. The Feingold cookbook, while basic, offers plenty of strategies and ways to work around the typical food additives that affect many children adversely.
If you have a child with learning problems, socialization issues and trouble in school, I cannot urge you enough to give this plan a try. Perhaps you'll find one food additive, as I did, that can easily be removed from his/her diet and solve your problems easily. Isn't it worth the effort to help your child be successful?


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Food Coloring: What I Learned the Hard Way

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© credit Feingold website

Red 3--You've seen it on labels for colored sodas, candy and a multitude of other products. But did you know that artificial food coloring is made from coal tar derivatives? The FDA knows it is a carcinogen, but lobbyists have managed to keep it on the market, as long as it is used in smaller quantities. Food processors believe that consumers buy more products that are colored nicely, and they are probably right. But there is more danger lurking behind those beautiful colored sodas, candies, and personal care products--hyperactivity, temper tantrums, lack of focus, stomach and digestive problems to name just a few.
Here is my story. When one of my children, (to remain nameless here) was turning 2, we had a birthday celebration at McDonald's (Yes, I'll admit that!). For the first time, this child drank Orange Soda. Orange Soda has lots of Red 3 in it; check the label for yourself. Within 30 minutes we had a belligerent, bouncing-off-the-walls kid who wouldn't stay put in the car seat for more than 2 minutes. This had never happened before. I put 2 + 2 together and talked to my pediatrician about it. He told me to run a test. Take the child off of all foods with any food coloring for 2 weeks and then serve a lot of it--particularly beverages, as they introduce more into the system quickly, because more volume is consumed than with candy.

Long story short, the child was calm and normal during the 2 weeks of no food coloring. On the day of the test I used Hawaiian Punch, which also contains Red 3. The result was the same. There was no question in my mind that my child was reacting to the food coloring.
I began to read up on the subject and was appalled to learn that most artificial food coloring, but red in particular, causes many difficult to manage behaviors. Along the way, I learned about an organization--the Feingold Program--whose sole purpose is to provide resources to families who have children with this problem. I joined and received an abundance of information on food additives that affect children. They sent me cookbooks, lists of products that are considered okay to eat, lists of products that are not acceptable, and so on. This was 20 years ago, give or take, and the program is still available and quite popular with families who do not wish to medicate their kids who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Like my family, we often learn that it isn't a disorder, but can be a response to foods and chemicals in them.

Later in this child's life, when a teacher had difficulty managing the child's natural energy, we agreed to go through testing with a psychologist. Turned out that we simply had a very bright, inquisitive child who was taxing the patience of the teacher. She needed strategies for dealing with an exceptionally curious and bright youngster. Interestingly, she became much more agreeable to my requests for careful policing of the classroom snacks and candy rewards that were given out.

Join me for my next post, if you'd like to learn a few strategies for dealing with these issues in your own children. You may even want to check out my prior post on the connection betweeen food and learning or behavior problems. I've been down that road for about 20 years now, and along the way have learned a thing or two that made life with an active and sometimes unpredictable child easier to deal with.

For now, if you're a parent of a kid with behavioral issues that often worsen after a meal or a drink, try the test I outlined above. Check out Feingold's website and consider what they can offer you in the way of education. It's well worth the small cost a year's membership to get the lists, cookbooks, and other resource materials.

Questions? Hit that comment link under the post (next to the envelope icon) and shoot me a note. I'd love to share my experience. Catch me tomorrow for more.

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