Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Harvest season

Harvest season is in full swing here, with greens and tomatoes, beans and herbs, onions and potatoes.

Just some of our heirloom tomatoes.

Again, our onions are not much bigger than the ones we planted.

We need lots of sage for our sausage in December.

Basil really shrinks down once dried.  Need lots.  For all those tomatoes.

The Swiss chard was outrageous this year, with some leaves more than 3.5 feet long.

The chard stems are huge, to be chopped for stews and casseroles.

Blanched before freezing to destroy enzymes that will break down the vegetables, even in the freezer.  To blanch, put a pound of veggies per gallon of boiling water for the time recommended on a list from a cookbook or online.  I did 3 minutes for the chard stems and leaves.  Then the same amount of time in a cold water bath to chill and stop the cooking process.

Drain well.....

Mark the bags, bag the veggies in portions you will use, and transport to the big freezer.

Go back outside and pick more!

If you don't have a garden, you may find big boxes of veggies and fruit at your local farmstand or farmer's market, boxed up especially for freezing and canning.  This is a great way to learn.  Then go out into your yard and find a very sunny spot for a few tomato plants, and maybe a cucumber and some green beans, and plan on preparing the ground this fall.  Then you'll be ready for buying started plants at your local garden center in the spring.  Even in some apartments you can have a couple of plants....if you have a sunny balcony or porch, there are varieties that are well suited to grow and produce in large pots.  There is nothing like fresh produce, grown and picked yourself, eaten fresh right off the vine!
The hubster and I had a small garden at the apartment house where we lived for the first several years of our marriage.  Some plants were in the ground in a small plot that the landlord allowed us to cultivate, and a few plants were in pots.  This is where I first learned to make these wonderful containers.

When I was a kid, my folks gardened a town away at an older gentleman's place.  His garden was too big for him as he got older, and they helped him while growing their own stuff.  The house we lived in had a tiny yard and too much shade to grown vegetables, and this was a great solution.  Be creative!  It is SO worth it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is your digestion working?

How would you know?  It seems just fine, right?  I'm eating and pooping and all that digestive stuff, so it must be IS ok, isn't it?

Why should we be concerned that our digestive system is not just adequate, but is performing like a brand new Ferrari?  Because our bodies and our brains need a LOT of nutrients to not only survive, but to thrive.  If we are watching what we eat and making efforts to take in good, nutrient-dense foods, it is all going into the toilet if we can't break it down into a form that our body can use.  If that is the case, even "good" food can be very harmful to our health at the same time that it is nourishing us.

Our stomach is a very special organ.  It is designed to contain acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCl....that is a capital H and C and a lower case L) that is so strong it can burn through aluminum foil in seconds.  Imagine what that does to food!  No other area of our body can handle that acidity, or even half that.

It is estimated that up to 90% of the population of the US is hypochlorhydric, or has a stomach pH that is not sufficient to properly digest their food.  So chances are pretty good that you fall into this category.  I do.  In my work as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, everyone I evaluate has low HCl to some degree, and correcting this is one of the first steps to getting proper nutrition for vibrant health.

So, how do you know if you need more acidity in your stomach?  Here are some common symptoms (although some of these can have other causes, they are very commonly symptoms of incorrect acidity in the stomach):

Belching, gas, diarrhea, or bloating within an hour of eating, or a sense of fullness (not satisfied, but a bit uncomfortable) after eating.

Heartburn, gastric reflux, or GERD....or on meds for any of these, prescription or over-the-counter.

Smells.....bad breath or strong sweat.

No desire for eating meat.

Don't feel like eating breakfast.

Feel better if you don't eat at all, or excessive sleepiness after meals.

Can't take vitamins because they make your stomach hurt.  Or you take them anyways and bear it.

There are some pooping symptoms, but I'll spare you.  You get the idea.  Most people will identify with one or more of the above symptoms on occasion.....or most of the time.

If you don't have enough acid to break down your food, it starts to poison you to some degree.  Carbohydrates will ferment (and expand), fats will become rancid, and proteins will putrify....rot.  Imagine a piece of meat sitting in water on a sidewalk for 24-72 hours at 99 degrees Fahrenheit.  That could be happening inside your very warm body.  But not if there is enough acid to break it down within a very short time after eating it.

Since digestion is a north to south process.....brain, mouth, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, poo....low HCl leads to damage to everything south of the stomach, too.  It is very, very critical to identify and correct this problem.

Intrigued?  This will be the topic of one segment of my 12 week series, Foundations of Vibrant Health, beginning in 3 weeks via teleconference.  The course will take place on Tuesday nights at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time (check a time zone map to see when the class will be for you) and each segment will be about an hour.  There will be lecture time and time for your questions.

The format is simple.  There will be a telephone number and access code to call into the class via conference call.  I will mute out all the students during the lecture portion, then I can change the mode so that individuals can unmute to ask questions.  Or students can email their questions to me and I'll read and answer them.  This will allow you to ask questions anonymously.

If you must miss a class or work during the time that the class is live, it will be recorded each week and there will be a different number to call in and listen to the recording.  The recording will be available until the next class.  You can still ask questions via email, and they will be answered during the next class.

You can certainly listen to the classes on speaker phone if you want your other half or family or a friend to listen in with you.  Only the person who registered can ask questions, and you must be off speaker phone to unmute and talk to me, otherwise the sound gets all funky for everyone else on the call.  You can get around this by emailing your questions.  I encourage you to pay for one person and then fill the room!

You can register for the class here.  Don't forget the coupon code!  It is "digestion" and will get you an additional fifty bucks off the already steeply discounted price.  More info on the class coming soon, but I promise it will be packed with useful stuff that will help you and your family on the path to wellness.  Including how my husband lost so much weight so quickly and some startling changes to my health and energy levels.

Me in teacher mode.

Hope to "see" you in class!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tomato basil casserole

This time of year the tomatoes are plentiful and beautifully ripened right on the vine.  Basil is lush and green.  Garlic is drying in braids and boxes.  It is cool enough on occasion to turn the oven on and still survive in the kitchen.

Spin freshly sliced tomatoes and washed basil leaves in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture and seeds.

Put a layer of tomatoes and than scatter some cooked meat, if making this as a one dish meal.  We used ground bison.  Then layer lots of basil leaves.  The hubster was helping, so we kinda did both steps at once.

Saute some garlic in the grease from the meat.  Sprinkle it on the casserole.

I love cheese!  I used a generous amount of my strongly-flavored grating feta, nice and sharp and salty.  I don't use salt when using this, so I just used a generous sprinkle of black pepper.  You can use cheese in this layer or not.  It will still work out just fine.

Add another thick layer of tomato slices.

Top it with cheese. Mozzarella here.  Shredded would be fine.  It will all melt down either way.

We dove in before remembering to take a picture!  Note the juiciness.  Imagine how much liquid there would be if I hadn't removed a couple of cups with the salad spinner.  The dogs LOVED this broth.


Bake this at 375 F for about half an hour or until the cheese is starting to brown.  You can sneak some greens into this as well....very thinly sliced baby zucchini are nice, as are cooked greens such as chard, collards, or spinach.  Layer the greens in the middle, between the layers of tomatoes.  Truly a one dish meal, or leave out the meat and use it as a vegetable side dish.  Be forewarned, though, everyone will want seconds!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What to do with Swiss chard stems

Crazy chard.
Make a casserole!  We grew gigantic chard this year and the stems are as big as celery.  This casserole was inspired by a simple mac'n'cheese recipe from one of my World War II era cookbooks.

Chop chard stems into 1" pieces.

Pre-cook them until just starting to soften.  I sauteed....they darkened.  Next time I'll steam them a bit.

Place half in a casserole dish and cover with a grating cheese.  I use an aged, hard feta that I make with our goat's milk.  Romano or Parmesan would work nicely.  Or you can skip this and go straight to your main cheese.

Cover with a generous amount of whatever cheese you like.  I used gruyere for this, an eight ounce package.  A sharp cheddar would be wonderful.  A mix of mozzarella and provolone would be nice.  Whatever you'd like, but make it a little zippy.

Add the rest of the chard stems.

Add the rest of your cheese.  I poured a half glass of milk carefully in the corners, as was in the directions of my mac'n'cheese recipe, but you can skip this.  Without pasta to absorb this, it was rather watery.

Since the oven would be on, I whipped up a chocolate cake to throw in as well.

Ah, toasted cheesy yumminess!

This casserole recipe is definitely a keeper.  The hubster admitted that when he saw me cooking, he was not looking forward to supper.  But when he tasted it, he enthusiastically requested that I make this recipe again and again.  It was super easy, too.  And there was cake.  What more does one need, I ask you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dramatic weight loss....56 lbs and still losing

In February of this year, the hubster, Peter, took control.  Sugar control.  Six months and 56 pounds later, he is into his third suit.  He has been able to shop in his closet so far, but it looks like we'll need to hit the stores pretty soon.

This suit is more than 10 years old.  He's  back into it, easily.

This is the suit he was wearing this past January.  The pants kept falling down while I was trying to take pictures.  We laughed a lot.  He wasn't laughing much at all in January when he put on this suit.

Six and a half months ago, this suit could not be buttoned.  Large safety pins were used on the pants under the belt and on the collar under the tie.

Much smaller suit....buttons easily with plenty of room to spare.

He still has a few pounds to go, but now that he doesn't have to carry that 56 lbs around all the time, he has so much more energy.  He is sleeping better, moving better, feeling better, and is less self-conscious.  He used to warn me sternly not to aim at him whenever I had the camera in my hand....which is why I don't have a "before" picture....but he was very happy to have these pictures taken this past Sunday.

He had a physical last October, and his doctor recommended cholesterol lowering meds (which he would never take for many, many reasons.  Artificially lowering blood cholesterol is like the mayor recalling all emergency medical vehicles off the roads in an ice storm instead of sending out sanding crews.  If one's blood cholesterol is high, there is an emergency need to address inflammation through lifestyle factors, especially diet.  Not cause more problems with meds.  Cholesterol is the bodies' emergency paramedic.  More on this later.)  Blood pressure meds were also recommended.  In the past, when Peter's blood pressure was too high for him to take classes at a gym that he'd just joined, he lowered it in less than a week with dietary changes.  He did the same again in February.  He did not take a single pill.

When he went back to the doctor at the end of June, the doctor was stunned and thrilled.  He said, "You made my day!"  He rarely ever has patients make the necessary changes.  Actually, doctors rarely give the guidance and support needed for their patients to make the changes.  That is where nutritional therapy comes in.

This big change all started when I discovered, by means of a functional evaluation by a fellow Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, that my adrenal glands were just about completely exhausted and my body was not regulating blood sugar levels efficiently.  My diet was close to ideal so this shocked me.  I seemed to be healthy and had plenty of it seemed.  But the handwriting was on the wall so I made the changes needed to heal BEFORE getting to the point of feeling unwell.  In retrospect, there were many symptoms,  I just didn't recognize them.  

I went on the sugar control diet (aka sugar handling protocol) and asked Peter if he wanted to join me.  He surprised me by agreeing.  We were doing this for health, not for weight loss.  Most people will find their weight normalizing, though, whether too thin or too heavy.  I lost about 10 lbs, putting me at 5'6" and about 130 lbs.  You can see how Peter's body responded.

Peter has not started working out yet.  He knows he should, and is much more active around the farm and has been walking the dogs and doing farm chores for about an hour or more every day, but has not hit the gym yet.  This weight loss is through diet only.  People who cannot be active due to injuries or serious health concerns can lose weight this way.

And it includes bacon.  Eggs.  Dairy is allowed for some people.  And timing....timing is very, very important.  As is combining.  And proportions. 

Want more information?  I will be teaching a teleclass on getting and staying healthy, and blood sugar control will be a part of it.  Included will be how to recognize if your blood sugar needs handling, long before you get to the point of needing medical intervention, so you can PREVENT the need for medical intervention.  (Disclaimer:  The information will not replace your doctor, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.  Please consult your medical professional if you think you have symptoms of any disease.  The information provided is designed, however, to aid you in healing your body while under treatment by your doctor or to help you PREVENT a disease process from getting spite of your family history.  Most diseases are lifestyle diseases, meaning you have a lot of power to prevent!)

The class, Foundations of Vibrant Health, will start on Tuesday, September 18 at 9 PM EST via teleconference, and will run for 12 weeks.  Each class will be up to an hour long, with time for questions and answers.

The series is competitively priced at $395....but I've marked it down to $195.  There is a coupon code as well, and using it will take another $50 off the series.  Yup, that is a whopper of a coupon code.  It is digestion.

If you can't make it but would like to know when the next class will be, if you are on facebook, "like" my page and check in on occasion:  BlueViola Nutritional Therapy.  Or join this blog to get email updates.

The official order form is here....get the coupon code first, though!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chicklets update

 Feeding her babies.

Well, this great mama hen still has all 7 chicklets, and they are growing every day.  She showed them that they can eat whole corn, and today they gobbled it up!  They've been eating the sprouted whole oats added to their cracked corn, catfood, kefir, and alfalfa mix for over a week now, but I was startled to see them attacking the whole corn that I tossed in their pen for this Icelandic rooster that has been hanging around in there: 

Ain't he a handsome boy?

Keeping an eye out for danger.

A neighbor was hammering something, it put her on full alert!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Make a quick picking pail from the recycling bin

I made a few of these easy baskets from gallon vinegar and bleach jugs.  They are perfect for clothespins as you can hang one on your arm easily and comfortably.  For this reason, these also make ideal picking baskets for small things like berries, cherries, grape tomatoes, etc.  It takes about 5 minutes or so to make one and all you need is a marker (or you could eyeball it), sharp scissors, and a plastic bottle, rinsed out.

Roughly sketch your basket, noting the placement of the handles on the bottle.

Puncture the bottle in the middle of one of the planned openings, then cut your way towards and around your lines.   You can use the basket now, or continue for a smoother finish if desired.

Snip off the top.

Carefully cut out a small arrow on one side.

Poke a horizontal slot near the top of the other handle.

Poke a vertical slot under this, making a T, extending the upright of the T to accommodate the width of your arrow.  I trimmed my arrow a little at this point.

"Tab A in slot B..."  insert the arrow into the upright of the T, then carefully twist it so it rest in the horizontal of the T.

Fill with clothespins....

Perfect!  Imagine having both hands free to hang laundry or pick raspberries....

A bleach bottle version.  I cut this one too low, but no worries.  Bleach and vinegar bottles are free!

These can also be used to organize the garage or basement.  I like the vinegar ones as they are slightly clear and I can quickly see what is in them.  We use vinegar in the dishwasher and laundry and for cleaning the milking machine, so we always have empty ones around.  If you don't, do you know someone who has a garden and makes pickles the non-traditional, fairly modern way with a canner and vinegar?  I know lots of people do, because the stores are often out of the gallon jugs of white vinegar in late July and into August, so you should be able to find some in your neighborhood.

I'll bet these could be fancied up a bit with some ribbon or fresh herbs and used to gift extra garden produce, too.  The possibilities are limitless!  What else can these be used for?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I love my garden sink!

The garden is finally starting to produce heavily and it takes some time to pick and process all that stuff.  Unless one has...a garden sink!  This slapped-together (expertly by Ed and his grand daughter) outdoor kitchen is seriously wonderful.  I was able to make very short work of cleaning and trimming the vegetables that were picked today and destined for tonight's big stew.

I trimmed and chopped the veggies outside, then brought them in and put them right into the simmering broth.

Suzan  gave me a piece of marble that fit perfectly on one side.  You can see the pail under the drain, and the hose used as a faucet.  Easy-peasy, no plumbing skills needed.  Worked great!

It is so nice to bring spotless root veggies into the house.

I think one of the reasons that the work went so fast was that I was not the least bit concerned about making a mess.  I could splash water with wild abandon, and chop at a crazy pace and let the chips...peels....fall where they may.

If you have even a moderate garden, you deserve a garden sink  This one cost about $26 for the wood and $15 for the used sink....probably could've gotten one for free, but I didn't have the patience to wait, and when I saw the blue one, I knew it would look great in my garden. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Starting to look more like chickens...

Starting to look more like chickens and less like fluffballs....

Never mind.  look at that cute tuckus!

The chicklets are two weeks old in these pictures.  She hatched 7 of the 8 eggs and still has all 7 chicks, amazing and wonderful since we are allowing them a lot of freedom, only locking them up at night.  
In the picture below, the upper hen with the chicks around her is NOT the mother.  The lower hen is, occupied with her digging.  She digs worms and finds bugs and small toads and such for her brood, and I feed them my special mix twice a day, adding kefir to moisten it since I have plenty.  She doesn't notice the other hen yet, but there is about to be a beat down.

Uh oh.  Interloper alert.

And there she goes, in attack mode.

"These are MY worms for MY babies!"

These chicks came from eggs from Andy and Haley of Eddy Farm in Newington, CT and are from a mixed flock, watched over by a Maran rooster.  You can see that all the chicks are feather-footed like their papa. 

Safely in for the night.

A few seconds of the chicks eating the home made starter mix.

And a couple minutes of the hen feeding her chicks during the day.  The other hen sneaks in and grabs three worms that the broody dug up for her chicks.  She is a devoted mother, even though she is not the brightest bulb in the box.