Simple Homemade Hummus Recipe

Simple Homemade Hummus Recipe

One of my favorite snacks in the whole world is homemade bread topped with homemade hummus, green olives, and fresh tomatoes from the garden. This hummus recipe is easy to make, super nutritious, and oh so very delicious!

Homemade Hummus

Homemade Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 15 oz. Cans of Garbanzo Beans (drain and save the liquid)
  • ½ Cup Tahini (make sure it’s evenly mixed)
  • ¼ Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Lemon (juice from one lemon or more if you like it tangy)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (peeled and sliced, more or less depending on taste preference)
  • 1 t. Cumin (Some recipes don’t call for this spice, but I think it’s what completes the flavor.)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • *Blender (You could also use a food processor.)
  • *Parsley (as a garnish, optional)

Directions

  • Drain the liquid from the garbanzo beans and add them to the blender. Set the liquid aside to add later as needed to get the blender going.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients (tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper). 
  • I like my hummus on the thicker side, so I try to add as little of the reserved garbanzo bean liquid as possible which is usually about half of a can.
  • In order to blend everything evenly, I use a large spoon to stir, blend, stir, blend, repeat until the consistency is nice and creamy.

In Conclusion

By having some delicious homemade hummus prepared ahead of time, you can be sure that when hunger strikes you will have a healthy snack on hand. I love chopping up fresh carrots and celery and using the hummus as a dip or putting it on top of my homemade bread. Delicious!

Hummus on Homemade Bread

Hummus on Homemade Bread

Super Simple Homemade Bread Recipe

Super Simple Homemade Bread Recipe

When we were first married, my parents got my husband and I a grain grinder. Since I was so busy with teaching, my mom actually taught my husband her famous bread recipe. He was the main bread maker in the family until we had two kids and I became a stay at home mom.

Scott is teaching his sister how to make bread in our old apartment back in 2006.

Here’s an old picture from 2006 where Scott is teaching his sister how to make bread.

When I have the time, I actually prefer making sourdough muffins (I never have been able to master a sourdough bread loaf recipe.) because it breaks down the phytic acid, but this whole grain bread recipe is great for when I just want a quick and simple loaf of bread.

This recipe will make 3 loaves. Before you get started, preheat the oven to 350° F. Also note that while this recipe is simple, it does take about 2 hours start to finish until you’re eating bread. (Don’t worry though, it’s not so much work as it is waiting.)

Ingredients

  • 6 c. Flour – I use organic prairie gold wheat berries that I order from Country Life Natural Foods (you can get prairie gold wheat berries on Amazon too) and grind my grain fresh with this grain grinder. If you are just looking for flour, this sprouted grain flour is the best. (Sprouting is another way to break down phytic acid.)
  • 1 c. Hot Water – Many recipes will call for warm water, but I like mine scalding hot to dissolve the coconut oil and honey. I make sure it’s not scalding when I add my yeast though!
  • 2 T. Coconut Oil – I buy my coconut oil in bulk from Country Life Natural Foods and keep a large yogurt tub full of it on my counter for greasing pans and cooking. If you don’t need such large amounts of coconut oil as I, then you should check out Nature’s Way Coconut Oil. *You could also use extra-virgin olive oil instead of coconut oil.
  • 2 T. Raw Honey – The yeast needs something sugary to consume, and I think raw honey is the best, but you could also use regular honey or even plain old sugar. I like finding local sources for raw honey, but you can find organic raw honey on Amazon as well.
  • 8 t. Yeast – I usually pick up something like this Red Star Active Yeast at the grocery store, but these individual yeast packets are really handy too.
  • Salt – You’ll be sprinkling some salt onto the dough during the kneading phase (any earlier and it can kill the yeast). I like using Real Salt because of the taste and high mineral content.
  • *3 Bread Pans – I like using glass baking pans. You could also trade out a loaf of bread for a pizza crust.

Directions

  1. Activate the yeast. In a large bowl, combine the hot water, coconut oil, and honey. Stir until the coconut oil and honey until dissolved. Sprinkle in the yeast, gently stir, and cover with a towel for 10 minutes.

    Activated Yeast

    Activated Yeast

  2. Add the flour. The mixture should be nice and frothy from the activated yeast at this point. Add 3 cups of flour, stir, then add the remaining 3 cups, and mix everything thoroughly. If it seems too wet, add a bit more flour. If it seems to dry, add a bit more water.
  3. Knead the dough. Dump the dough onto a floured table and knead the dough by folding it in half and rolling it over itself, turning the dough, flipping it over and repeating this process over and over again. Try to knead for 5-10 minutes. The longer you knead the dough, the more it activates the gluten and sticks together. You’ll notice a change in the texture after kneading for a bit.

    Kneading the Dough

    Kneading the Dough

  4. Break into three loaves. Evenly divide the dough into three lumps and continue kneading each one for about 5 minutes each. (You’ll be surprised how much easier it is once it’s divided!) As you knead, sprinkle salt onto the dough about 3 times for each loaf.

    Three Loaves

    Three Loaves

  5. Let it rise. Grease your pans, roll the dough into the shape of a hot dog bun with a crease on the bottom, and place inside of the pans. Set them on top of a stove that’s pre-heating or somewhere warm for about 40 minutes to an hour. To help the dough rise faster, sometimes I’ll open the oven door with the pans on top or put them inside the oven set to the lowest setting with the door open.

    Dough Baby

    Dough Baby

  6. Bake. Once the dough has doubled in size, it’s ready to bake! Bake at 350º F for about 35-40 minutes. You’ll know when it’s ready by the bready smell!

    Two Bread Loaves and a Pizza Crust Ready to Bake

    Two Bread Loaves and a Pizza Crust Ready to Bake

  7. Eat! There is simply nothing better than a fresh warm slice of bread topped with butter and honey. This is our traditional reward for a bread well done!
    Fresh Baked Bread

    Fresh Baked Bread

    Fresh Baked Bread with Butter and Honey

    Fresh Baked Bread with Butter and Honey

In Conclusion

There is something so satisfying about making your own food from scratch. My kids always love helping me make bread and eating the dough along the way. I love this recipe because it’s simple, easy to follow, and makes the most delicious bread ever. Another favorite snack I love to enjoy with my homemade bread is a fresh slice topped with homemade hummus, chopped green olives, and fresh tomatoes from the garden. Yum!

Homemade Bread Topped with Hummus, Green Olives, and Tomato

Homemade Bread Topped with Hummus, Green Olives, and Tomato

Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Essential oils seem to be all the rage these days. People are looking for safer and more natural ways to take care of their bodies and homes and essential oils have a very strong allure. But are essential oils really all they’re cracked up to be?

When I get to talking with my friends about essential oils, two things always come up: 1) What are you actually supposed to DO with essential oils? and 2) What is the safest way to use essential oils? So I set off to do some research, and do you know what I learned? I learned that while essential oils aren’t the be all/cure all for everything, they are just like the spices we use for cooking. The more you play around with aromas and healing properties, the more you will be able to add a drop here and a drop there to positively effect the health and well-being of your entire family. So come learn with me!

What ARE Essential Oils?

Essential oils are basically the distilled and concentrated oils of a plant. But interestingly enough, they are not really essential and they are not really oils.

They are called “essential”, not because we need to get them from our diets (such as with essential amino acids like lysine or essential fatty acids like omega-3s), but rather because they contain the essence of the plant’s fragrance. Also, they are not really “oils” like olive oil and coconut oil because they do not contain fatty acids (although they are both hydrophobic and repel water).

If you look at the two examples below, the first one is a picture of oleic acid (up to 83% of olive oil is comprised of oleic acid), and is basically a long chain of carbon atoms (with a bend) surrounded by hydrogen atoms.

Oleic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, D.328, 2008)

Oleic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, D.328, 2008)

This next picture is of eugenol (about 20% of clove oil is comprised of eugenol), and it has more of a hexagon shape that is made of mostly hydrogen atoms and hydroxide diatomic anions.

Eugenol (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fuse 809, 2013)

Eugenol (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fuse 809, 2013)

So the term “oil” is used to reference the highly concentrated part of a plant that has been extracted. The oils extracted from plants are basically stored as microdroplets in the glands of plants.

Lavender Oil Glands and Trichomes (Lavandula Dentata) - Photo Credit: Power & Syred, 2008

Lavender Oil Glands and Trichomes (Lavandula Dentata) – Photo Credit: Power & Syred, 2008

The droplets diffuse through the walls of the glands and spread over the surface of the plant evaporating and creating the fragrance of the plant. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,

The function of the essential oil in a plant is not well understood.

Some postulations are that it protects the plant from parasites, or maybe it attracts bees, but since very few essential oils are actually involved in the plant, some people say that these materials are simply a waste product of plant biosynthesis. At any rate, they sure smell good!

How Are Essential Oils Made

Most pure essential oils are extracted from plants using steam distillation. Freshly picked plants are placed in a still and suspended over boiling water. The steam saturates the plants for fairly short about of time (about 15-30 minutes), and then it is rapidly cooled causing the steam to condense back into water. The water is drained from the still, the essential oils float to the top, and are then collected. The remaining water is sold as floral water, otherwise known as a hydrosol.

Another method is known as expression and is typically reserved for citrus peels such as orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit. It is made in a similar way to olive oil by pressing the oil from the plant’s flesh, seeds, and skins.

Some plant material is too delicate and must be extracted with solvents (as is the case with rose oil). The oils that are extracted with solvents are called absolutes.

The Concentration of Essential Oils

I find it absolutely fascinating to think about how much of the raw plant is needed to make a small bottle of essential oil. I’ve found a few examples here that may vary slightly based on each oil company producing it, but will still blow your mind nonetheless.

Lavender Fields in France (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Marianne Casamance, 2011)

Lavender Fields in France (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Marianne Casamance, 2011)

  • 27 square feet of lavender are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lavender oil
  • 75 lemons are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lemon oil
  • 1 lb of raw peppermint material is needed to make one 15 mL bottle of peppermint oil (source)
  • One drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of 26-28 cups of peppermint tea (source)
  • 200,000 rose petals are needed to make one 5 mL bottle of rose oil (source)

What Makes a Good Essential Oil?

Choosing the best high quality oil can take a little bit of research. Here are some of the things to look for when selecting an oil.

  • Special Note – There is no classification in the aromatherapy world for “therapeutic grade” oils. So any oil company who say, “no other oil company can say…”, it’s probably because their company has trademarked these words. (Read more about The ‘Therapeutic Grade’ Essential Oils Disinformation Campaign here.)
  • Growing Methods  – Look for oil companies that use sustainable and ethical farming practices free from herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Note that the “organic” certification is great, but may not be available in some countries where the plants are grown.
  • Label – The label should include: the botanical plant name (i.e. lavandula angustifolia for lavender), plant part (flower/stem oil, flower oil, peel oil, etc.), and common sense caution (i.e. keep out of reach of children, consult a health practitioner if pregnant or nursing, etc.). Country of origin is also nice to know as well.

    Clove Oil Label

    Clove Oil Label

  • TestingGC/MS (Gas Chromatopography/Mass Spectrometry) testing identifies the different substances within a test sample.
  • Cost – If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. For example, jasmine oil and rose oil are very concentrated, hard to make, and will therefore run about $80 – $100 for a mere 5 mL. But higher cost does not always mean higher quality when it comes to price comparison.

Essential Oil Safety Guidelines

  • Is it safe to use undiluted oils? – It is generally recommended that you can use oils like lavender and tea tree “neat” without any dilution, but if you repeatedly use an essential oil without dilution on the skin for a period of time, you can become sensitized to it with an adverse reaction that will appear “suddenly” and may possibly never go away. It’s always safest to dilute essential oils using this guideline:
    • For Young Children (6-24 months) – 1 drop plus 1 T. of carrier oil
    • For Children (2+) and Sensitive Skin – 1 drop plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
    • For General Daily Use – 2 drops plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
    • For Periodic Use – 3 drops plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
  • Which carrier oils are the best? – Carrier oils are the best way to dilute essential oils. Here is a list of the best carrier oils with notes about why you might consider each one.
    Carrier Oils

    Carrier Oils

    • Sweet Almond Oil – This is my favorite to use for skin care because it’s very light, reasonably inexpensive, has a sweet smell, and is very nutritious with lots of vitamins including A, B, and E.
    • Jojoba Oil – This oil is a bit thicker, has a longer shelf life, and has pretty much no odor. It mimics collagen making it great for people who suffer from any skin conditions.
    • Fractionated Coconut OilFractionated coconut oil has almost all of the long chain fatty acids removed leaving it with mostly medium chain fatty acids making it very saturated and very stable with a long shelf life. It will also stay in liquid form, is less likely to clog pores than regular coconut oil, and has the antioxidant and anti-mircorbial properties of capric and caprylic acid.
    • Olive Oil – This can be the most convenient carrier oil to use because you probably have it in your cupboards! It also contains lots of proteins, vitamins, and minerals that really help with skin and hair.
    • For Aging Skin – Apricot, Aragan, and Rosehip are all really great oils for aging skin.
  • Can young children use essential oil? The safest way for babies and young children to use essential oils is through diffusion, hydrosols (floral water left over after steam distillation), and application to the feet – the least overwhelming place for the senses (if they won’t put them in their mouth that is). Plant Therapy makes some great blends for kids over 2 like this Nighty-Night blend.
    • 0-3 Months: Avoid all essential oils, their skin is too sensitive and permeable
    • 3-6 Months:  Very little contact with essential oils with the exception of: Chamomile, lavender, dill, and blue yarrow
    • 6-24 Months: Can safely use a variety of essential oils including: citronella, grapefruit, orange, and tea tree
    • Children 2+: Can safely use an expanded array of essential oils including: clary sage, clove (for teething), frankincense, lemongrass, myrhh, oregano, spearmint, and vetiver
    • Avoid: Stay away from peppermint with children under 6 and eucalyptus and rosemary with children under 10 because they contain the constituent (1.8, cineole) which has been known to cause breathing problems (so this also means no thieves oil). (source 1, source 2)
  • Can pregnant and nursing women use essential oils? – Even though many pregnant women enjoy the benefits of essential oils, there haven’t been any studies to determine their absolute safety (ethical reasons), so pregnant women should use with caution. Here are a few general guidelines:
    • Avoid the use of essential oils in their first trimester
    • Only them use periodically – not daily
    • Avoid absolutes because of the trace chemicals
    • Avoid adding oils to the birthing pool because it could be harmful to the new baby
    • Avoid clary sage, all eucalyptus, lemongrass, myrrh, and oregano to name a few (source)
  • Is it safe to ingest essential oils? – When you think about how oil and water don’t mix, it is weird to add even just one drop of lemon essential oil to your water because not only is that the equivalent 1 lb of lemons, but it could cause burns, blisters, and lesions in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach lining if the undiluted droplet comes in contact with your sensitive tissues.
    • If you really want to get the health benefits of lemon in your water, I would just squeeze half of a lemon into your water and leave the oils for diffusing and skin care.
    • You can also find lavender tea, peppermint tea, and chamomile tea made from dried herbs that is a much safer method of ingesting.
    • Enteric coated capsules that will not release until they reach the small intestine (like these peppermint capsules for IBS) are also safer than trying to ingest essential oils.
    • Unless there are extreme circumstances (i.e. you are suffering from a debilitating illness and NOTHING else is working) and you are under the specific guidance of a trained aromatherapist, I would NOT RECOMMEND INGESTING ESSENTIAL oils. (source)
  • What should I do if I get some essential oil in my eyes or it burns my skin? – If you get some essential oil in your eyes or on your skin and it burns, the worst thing you can do is try to rinse it off with water. The best thing you can do is wipe the area clean with a carrier oil, some whole milk, or cream which will bind to the oil and rinse it away (source).
  • Other Precautions – Keep undiluted oils away from airways (nose and mouth) and avoid essential oil use with people who have respiratory diseases such as asthma because they can inflame the airways (source).

Best Uses for Essential Oils

Once you get past some of the basics about essential oils, I think that the most common question that I have heard (and thought myself) most often is,

“How do I actually use essential oils in my daily life?”

So here are some of the ways to use essential oils that are safe, practical, and things we could all use in our daily lives. Everyone has different smells that they find either intoxicating or disgusting, the best advice I have is to just get your nose in front of as many essential oils as you can until you find the fragrances that you really like.

  • Diffusing – Our sense of smell is very powerful at triggering emotions and memories and by diffusing essential oils, it can create very significantly alter your mood in a positive way by inducing anything from peace and calm to vigor and energy. Look for a cool air diffuser that uses high frequency vibrations to create an ultra fine mist. Check out this list of amazing diffuser blends that will fit just about any mood you might have. There are also a lot of pre-made blends you can get for different purposes. As a beginner just testing out my own blends, I like using a few drops of orange and clove oil or lavender and vanilla.
  • Rollerballs – Preparing rollerballs with your favorite essential oils and a good carrier oil can help you to enjoy your favorite scent on the go or give you a healing mixture at the tip of your fingers. Just apply to your wrists, neck, or feet. Check out this list of some great rollerball blends.
  • In the Bath – DO NOT add essential oils directly to the bath…they will not evenly disperse in the water. Make sure to add them to a surfactant (soap), carrier oil, or even some cream or whole milk first.  Sugar scrubsbath salts, or bath bombs if you want to get really fancy, are great ways to get essential oils into your bath experience.
  • Skin Care Products – I like making my own toothpaste (using peppermint oil), my own deodorant (using tea tree and lavender oils), my own body butter (using whatever essential oils I want to enjoy), and my own lip balm (using eucalyptus oil). You can also make your own massage oil (lemongrass, marjoram, and peppermint soothe muscles) or any other number of skin care products using essential oils. (I love all of Wellness Mama’s recipes.)
  • Cleaning – By mixing white vinegar, dish soap, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus oil, you can make your own tub and tile cleaner.  You can also make your own all purpose cleaner by mixing together vinegar, lavender, lemongrass, sweet orange, oregano, and tea tree oil. Check out more cleaning recipes here. Just make sure you’re using amber spray bottles if you need your cleaner to have a long shelf life.
  • Compresses – Hot compresses are typically used to help muscles and tissues while cold compresses are typically used to constrict blood vessels and control swelling. To make either one, fill a pan or large bowl with either very hot or very cold water, add about 6-12 drops of oil (examples: clary sage for menstrual cramps, peppermint for headache or stomachache), swirl a cloth through the water, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area (source).
  • Cotton Balls – Put a few drops of an essential oil on a cotton ball and place in the bottom of a trashcan, behind the toilet, in some stinky shoes, or in a drawer to help eliminate odors and leave behind a fragrant aroma. You can also add a few droplets on dryer balls to make your clothes smell really nice.
  • Spray Bottles: Mix your favorite oils in water, make sure to shake before use, spray on clothes, to freshen up a room, as a bug spray or to keep cats off from things (citronella, tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemongrass).
  • Inhaler: Add about 25 drops of essential oils (eucalyptus, fir, cypress, etc.) to a cotton ball and stuff into one of these inhalers. (See more on how to make one here.)

Healing with Essential Oils

If you can think of an ailment or condition and type that into google next to the words “essential oils”, I am sure that you will find a TON of ideas. Some of the most healing oils that come up over and over again for different ailments are: tea tree, oregano, chamomile, and lavender. You can make a really good healing salve (better than Neosporin) using: Coconut oil, tea tree, lavender, frankincense, and helichrysum essential oils.

Keep in mind that if you’re using essential oils to treat a physical symptom (i.e. skin condition), you’ve got to treat the underlying cause or the symptom will keep reoccurring. That being said, if you’re feeling any of the symptoms below, I have listed some of the best essential oils for eliminating them (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5, source 6).

  • Insomnia: Lavender and chamomile, maybe a little bit of orange are the best choice, also marjoram, ylang ylang, lime, bergamot, neroli, and lemon (spray the room, pillow, or diffuse in room 30 minutes prior to bedtime)
  • Headache: Peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, or rosemary (roller ball, compress, diffuser)
  • Cold and Flu: Tea tree, pine, lavender, peppermint, thyme, lemon, eucalyptus, or rosemary (diffuser, roller ball, inhaler, compress)
  • Chest Congestion/Cold: Eucalyptus (or fir and cypress), frankincense or bergamot will help kill germs too (inhaler, diffuser)
  • Skin Fungus: Tea tree, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, and lavender (roller ball, carrier oil, lotion)
  • Tooth Pain: Clove oil – only use over the age of 2, numbing agent, so don’t swallow (external compress, with carrier oil in the mouth)
  • Eczema: Lavender and chamomile are very soothing (mix with Renew lotion)
  • Bug Bites: Basil, lavender, tea tree (carrier oil)
  • Morning Sickness/Nausea: Ginger, spearmint, lemon, grapefruit, orange, or lime (inhaler, rollerball)
  • Back Pain/Sciatic Nerve Pain: Marjoram, lavender, cypress, chamomille, and black pepper (massage oil)
  • Stretch Marks and Scars: Chamomille, orange, and rosehip mixed together (carrier oil, lotion)
  • Stress/Anxiety/Fear: Lavender, chamomile, citrus scents, geranium, ylang ylang, petitgrain, and neroli (diffuser, inhaler, rollerball)
  • Fatigue: Spearmint, grapefruit, lime, and sweet orange mixture (inhaler, diffuser)
  • Menstrual Cramps: Chamomile, clary sage, lavender, peppermint, rose, or rosemary (hot compress)

In Conclusion

I do not think that essential oils are the be all and end all to all things related to health and beauty, but I do think that they are an integral part of every natural household. The attraction to essential oils seems to be such a buzz these days, and I’m glad that now I have a pretty strong understanding of what essential oils are, how they are made, how to find high quality oils, the proper safety precautions that should be taken when using essential oils, and have some practical ideas for how to use essential oils in my home. I am excited to continue using essential oils and learning more about each of their individual properties, aromas, and uses. Thanks for learning with me!

*I recently used these Essential Oil NOTES for an essential oil presentation. Feel free to print them out and use them for your own purposes. If you would like the Word document so you can make changes, please contact me.

Additional Resources

The Best Wellness Supplements to Keep Sickness at Bay

When you’re sick or starting to feel sick, these are the four supplements that you WON’T want to be without. When I feel myself starting to get run down, I of course try to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating a nutrient dense diet, eliminating processed foods, and washing my hands regularly, but sometimes all of these things aren’t possible or enough, and I need a little boost.

Being a busy stay at home mother of four (soon to be five), I don’t get to take “sick days” (although my husband does pamper me on the weekends and when he’s at home). So, when I see everyone around me dropping like flies, or when I start to feel the first onset of an illness, I try to take it easy as much as I can and start loading up on these supplements. It’s amazing how when you take a supplement that’s REALLY good, you can feel the positive effects right away.

Over the years through much research and experimentation, these are what I have found to be the best wellness supplements on the market!

1. Pure Radiance C

I have done a TON of research about vitamin C supplements and tried everything under the sun. These pills are simply AMAZING! If I take ONE PILL when I am starting to feel sick, within 30 minutes, I can literally feel my symptoms start to reverse.

Pure Radiance C

Pure Radiance C

Vitamin C is an excellent supplement when you’re feeling sick because it helps to boost the immune system, but this vitamin C from Pure Radiance is different from the acidic chewable tablets you’ll find at the grocery store. Instead of containing the synthetically manufactured component of vitamin C known as ascorbic acid, Pure Radiance C contains only vitamin C derived naturally from berries. And although studies show that they both boost the immune system equally, I have experienced different results. I think it’s because it’s very concentrated, and that is why I notice such a difference from just one pill.

You can obtain vitamin C naturally from diet in foods such as raw milk (vitamin C in pasteurized milk is destroyed) and fruits and vegetables such as oranges, broccoli, strawberries and brussel sprouts, but fruits and vegetables today don’t pack the same nutrient dense punch as they used to because of the depletion of nutrients from the soil. That is why I especially try to make sure to buy organic produce during cold and flu season.

2. Activate – C

This dietary supplement drink mix has blown me away with its effectiveness. The powerful combination of ingredients and the ease of taking it in delicious liquid form makes it something that everyone in our family enjoys. When I start to feel sick and drink one of these, I feel a noticeable improvement in my health right away.

Activate - C

Activate – C

Activate – C is a supplement you add to water that contains 1,200 mg of Vitamin C (in the form of ascorbic acid, water soluble, acts as an antioxidant), 15 mg of zinc (white blood cells can’t function without zinc), vitamin E (a fat soluble antioxidant…so take this with a meal that contains fat), astragalus extract (a powerful immune booster), and aronia berry extract (which has more antioxidants than elderberry).

3. Wellness Formula

This used to be the ONLY supplement we ever needed to keep sickness at bay, but since they changed their recipe, it just doesn’t pack the same punch as it used to. But still, if I take these pills when I FIRST start feeling sick, I am usually able to prevent the illness from settling in. They also have liquid and chewable options for children (although they don’t boast as impressive of an ingredient list).

Wellness Formula

Wellness Formula

I actually wrote an entire blog about how this was the ONLY wellness supplement I needed, and even though this is a part of my “wellness arsenal”, it’s no longer at the top of my list ever since they modified their ingredient list to pretty much include less of everything…so it’s still effective, you will just need to take a LOT of it.

*There is a warning label advising that this is not for pregnant or breastfeeding moms…although I believe that this is because not every ingredient has been through a clinical trial for this demographic. I personally have taken it after researching each ingredient and have had no problems, but this is also why I prefer having other sources for wellness supplements while I’m pregnant and/or nursing. 

4. Umcka

My sister married a man from South Africa, and Umcka is his family’s secret weapon against illness. Unlike the other supplements, this doesn’t need to be taken at the onset of illness. It’s meant to be taken during illness and will shorten the duration and severity. I usually like the cold care formula in a drink, but the chewable tablets are good too and the kids love them!

Umcka

Umcka

The main ingredient in Umcka Cold Care is pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as African geranium, a medicinal herb. It is especially effictive for treating acute bronchitis and increasing the body’s natural healing rate. Read more about it here!

5. Other Supplements

These supplements aren’t currently part of my regular regime, but I have had success with them in the past, and they might work perfectly for you!

  • Throat Coat Tea – When you wake up in the morning, and it feels like your throat is clogged with phlegm or is sore from coughing, preparing this tea with a bit of raw honey will do wonders!
  • Zarbee’s Nighttime Cough Syrup – If you have a little one who is having trouble sleeping because of a bad cough, this all natural syrup is amazing! It has vitamin C and zinc to boost the immune system along with honey (so don’t give to children under 12 months) and melatonin (a natural hormone, safe for kids) to help them sleep.
  • Chewable Vitamins for Kids – For our kids, sometimes giving them some cheap chewable vitamin C and chewable vitamin D (especially when they’re not getting much sun) can help them keep sickness at bay. I also like giving them these children’s vitamins that are designed to be recognized by the body as food.
  • Bee PropolisBees create this propolis out of tree resin and honey to seal small cracks in their hive. It basically acts as nature’s antibiotic and is great for ear infections, killing very harmful bacteria, stopping the growth of candida, and boosting the immune system. I have noticed really good results after using this.
  • Elderberry Syrup – You can make your own by boiling dried elderberries or you can buy it. It’s supposed to be an amazing immune booster, but I have just never found it to be super effective, although I have heard many people swear by it!

In Conclusion

If you’re scouring the internet because you’re feeling sick or want to prevent illness in your home as we embark on yet another cold and flu season, then you will be bombarded with one article after another touting a variety of different claims, so I am here to tell you that these are the supplements that have worked for me and my family.

Nothing is as good as getting lots of quality sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating nutrient dense foods, and avoiding overly processed food substitutes, especially for our little ones, but sometimes the cold and flu season is especially brutal and we need a boost (or a break), and that’s when these supplements can make all of the difference.

What's So Bad About Phthalates?

What’s So Bad About Phthalates?

I’ve done a bit of research about phthalates to know that they are bad, but I wanted to dig a little deeper to see just how bad and learn more about the possibilities for exposure.

My Health Journey

As a health conscious mother of four (soon to be five) and also on a pretty strict budget as a stay at home mom, I’m always trying to balance out health and cost. I first of all try to serve my children as much nutrient dense food as possible while at the same time try to eliminate as many toxins as I can. That being said, stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol which leads to inflammation, free radical damage, and a weakened immune system, so I try to avoid that by not getting too paranoid about things that can affect our health.

I believe the best health journey is one that is continuous and involves baby steps. Once, I tried throwing out everything processed and only purchased organic whole foods, but the cost was overwhelming and something we couldn’t support on one income. (Also, organic isn’t a magic label freeing us from all toxins.) So now, we do what we can, and I’m always trying to just focus on the next step rather than the final destination.

In this series of articles, I would like to explore some of the toxins that are lurking in our everyday lives, explain what they are, how they are hurting us, and discuss how they can be avoided. I hope that this research will serve our family as we continue our health journey, choose better and safer products, and try to live the best life that we can every day for both our current and future health.

What are Phthalates?

Most phthalates (pronounced f-THAL-ates) are plastcizers that are added to plastics (such as vinyl flooring, raincoats, shower curtains, plastic toys, and IV drip bag tubes) to make them more flexible and harder to break. They are also added as a dissolving agent (solvent) and fragrance carrier to many personal care products including soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and laundry detergents.

*On a side note, phthalates are not commonly found in things like plastic wrap, food containers, and water bottles…although these plastics do contain other dangerous chemicals that can leech into your food and beverages that I will discuss in future articles.

Finding Phthalates on Labels

If you’re a label reader (like me), the scary thing about phthalates is that under current law, they can simply be labeled as “fragrance”, even if they make up to 20% of the product.

If you’re looking at your labels, you may notice different acronyms and names:

  • DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) – used in nail polish and other personal care products
  • DEP (diethyl phthalate) – used in personal care products, such as deodorants, perfume, cologne, aftershave lotion, shampoo, hair gel, and hand lotion
  • BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) – used in vinyl flooring, car-care products, and personal care products
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate) – used in insect repellent, plastics, and solid rocket propellant
  • DEHP (di-phthalate, bis-phthalate, or 2-ethylhexyl phthalate) – used as a softener in PVC products, such as IV bags, tubing, and other medical devices

*In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a law calling for the phthalates DBP, DEHP, and BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate) to be banned in all toys (including teething toys) and bedding intended for children 12 and under. There are, however, no regulations on phthalates in toys made in China, and they have been tested to have very high levels (28%-38%).

Why are Phthalates Dangerous?

While most studies reflect the effects of phthalates on animals, the results have been disturbing enough for people to start taking notice. Most adults will metabolize phthalates through the digestive system and excrete them via feces or urine, but this isn’t really possible for fetuses in the womb and particularly dangerous for the immature digestive system of infants and young children, so they are most at risk.

While more research is needed, animals studies show that low exposure to DBP phthlates (found in most grocery store cosmetics) can damage the reproductive system of males and that DEHP (used to soften plastics) is toxic to the developing fetus (especially at high exposures such as experienced by those undergoing medical procedures). Other studies show that,

“there is a potential for phthalates to impact birth outcomes, including gestational age and birth weight, fertility (lower sperm production), and anatomical abnormalities related to the male genitalia,” states Maida Galvez, a pediatrician and director of the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit in New York City.

Phthalate exposure is also linked to asthma, the timing of puberty, childhood obesity, and other health conditions such as breast cancer.

How to Avoid Phthalates

While I don’t think it’s practical or possible in this day and age to chuck every man made material possession and move deep into the woods to be free from human influence or innovation, there are some ways that we can start to eliminate our phthalate exposure both gradually and practically.

  1. Look for phthalates or fragrance on labels. Avoid anything with “fragrance” or any mention of any type of phthalate. Instead of using air fresheners, just put a few drops of essential oils into a spray bottle filled with water.
  2. Look for phthalate-free labels. This may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but it is a pretty good way to find things that are free from phthalates. 🙂 Look for phtalate-free labels on cleaners and cosmetics especially.
  3. Check the bottom of plastic bottles and choose those labeled #2, 4, or 5. Avoid #3 and #7 because they may contain phthalates.
  4. Use a french press for coffee. The plastic tubing and high heat in coffee pots are a recipe for high phthalate exposure.
  5. Don’t buy plastic toys from China. If you buy children’s toys in the U.S. (made after 2008), they cannot contain phthalates, but even still, you might want to steer towards wooden toys like these wooden teethers that my friend makes! And don’t buy plastic toys from China (or other countries) where there are no regulations on phthalates.
  6. Know where your milk comes from. Even organic milk may have passed through plastic tubes (with DEHP) on the way from the cow to the bottle. The fatty acids in milk basically pull the the DEHP out of the plastic tubing and into the milk. We actually get raw milk from a farm (that we have visited) where the milking is done by hand and never touches plastic of any kind.
  7. Sweat more. Sweating helps your body to eliminate phthalates twice as effectively as elimination through urine. So, adults can exercise more or visit the sauna!
  8. Be careful when painting. Most paints have DBP to help them spread better, so make sure there are no children are around and the room is well ventilated, or look for natural paints without DBP.
  9. Choose non-vinyl options if possible. For example, you can check out these non-vinyl shower curtain options and these PVC and phthalate free raincoats at Puddlegear that will not produce chemical off-gassing bringing phthalates into your environment. *These options are expensive and things I would save for more advanced elimination.

Conclusion

The people most at risk from phthalate exposure are unborn babies and infants (especially males), so it’s especially important for pregnant mamas and parents of young children to be aware of things that contain phthalates. During human studies, women have tested higher for the type of phthalates found in cosmetic products, so women are typically at greater risk as well. So before slathering lotion on yourself or your baby, spritzing on some perfume, or washing your clothes, check your labels and know what you’re putting onto and into your body.

Like I said before, I don’t think it’s worth the stress to get super paranoid about every possible danger in life because we’re all going to die one day anyways, but by taking thinking of it as a health journey instead of a health destination, we can continuously choose one thing at a time to improve in our lives that will help not only our current health, but our future health, and the health of future generations as well.

Embracing Motherhood Chicken Soup Recipe

Healing Chicken Soup Recipe

This is just your basic chicken soup recipe, but when each component is carefully prepared from the roasting of the chicken, to the making of the stock, to the preparation and addition of other ingredients like the soaked barley, it is truly a masterpiece. I like to make some sort of soup every other week or so (especially during the cold months) because it makes a great “go to” lunch, dinner, breakfast, or snack. Whenever I am too busy to prepare a meal or feel hungry and tempted to eat a pile of cookies or go to McDonalds, I just put my soup on the stove and minutes later I have a nice, delicious, healthy, and nourishing meal.

Ingredients

  • Roasted Chicken (Cut into bite sized pieces. Usually when I make a roasted chicken, we are able to make one meal out of just eating the meat and what’s left over gets put into the soup.)
  • 4 Quarts of Chicken Stock (Check out how I make my simple bone broth here.)
  • 2 c. Soaked Barley (You could also use soaked rice or soaked beans, but barley is the healthiest choice.)
  • 2 c. Chopped Carrots
  • 2. c. Chopped Celery
  • 4 T. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here, you can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • Optional: 1 c. Chopped Leeks, 1 c. Chopped Bok Choy, or whatever else is leftover in your fridge that could be chopped up and sounds like it would be good in soup (broccoli, potatoes, zucchini, green beans, etc.)!

Directions

  1. Bake the chicken. Check out my roasted chicken recipe here, but basically, you’re going to season your chicken (I use garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and throw a stick of butter in the cavity) and bake at 350° F for 1.5 hours.
    roast chicken

    Roast Chicken

  2. Cut it up. Let the chicken cool, cut it off the bone, and leave to soak in it’s own juices.
  3. Make your bone broth. Read more about making bone broth here, but basically, you’re going to low boil your bones, skin, etc. with cold filtered water and a dash of apple cider vinegar (to draw out the minerals) for 24-36 hours (or at least overnight). Then, drain the broth and use it for your stock.
    straining the broth

    Straining the Bone Broth

  4. Low boil and add the chicken. Bring the chicken broth to a low boil. As it’s heating up, add the chicken. If it looks like there is too much broth, drain some off and either freeze it or save it for later. (I like setting some broth aside and adding it later to make my soup last longer!)
  5. Add the veggies. Depending on how big of a pot you’re making and how long you think it will last, keep that in mind when you cook your veggies. Carrots and celery tend to take longer to cook, so I like to add them first. If I’m adding bok choy, leeks, and parsley, I’ll wait to add them to the end and not cook them for very long so that they don’t get soggy.
    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

  6. Add your starch. You can add your pre-soaked barley, some rice, or even beans too (garbanzo and white beans are my favorites). Sometimes, I like to hold off on the starch and just leave the meat and veggies, and sometimes, I like to cook a pot of rice and pour my soup over it. Yum!
    chicken soup over rice

    Chicken Soup Over Rice

  7. Salt to taste. Yes, you can over salt your soup, and I have done it many times! Start out with some, then add a little more and a little more until it tastes just right.
  8. Enjoy! When everything is just right, get out your bowls and enjoy some soup! It’s also really good to serve some piping hot sourdough muffins with this meal.
    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

    Chicken Soup with Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, and Leeks

In Conclusion

Chicken soup make with organic, pasture raised chickens using properly prepared broth and grains is just about one of the healthiest meals you can eat. I love making a pot whether it’s summer or winter for a nourishing go to meal that can last my family through the week. Read more of my soup recipes here or my chicken recipes here.

How to Make the Best Roasted Chicken

How to Make the Best Roasted Chicken

This is a very basic recipe for roasted chicken, but sometimes the best meals stem from simplicity. I like to make a roasted chicken about once a week. My kids love eating it cut up into bite size chunks when it’s fresh out of the oven, and my husband always gets first dibs on the legs! After I pick all of the meat off, I’ll boil the bones to make chicken stock and the extra chicken will either go into a pot of soup, or I’ll use it for some other meal.

Ingredients

  • One Whole Chicken (Organic and pastured is best, look for a local farmer, or check it our here)
  • 1 Stick of Butter (Pastured butter like Kerrygold is the best.)
  • 1 t. Real Salt (I buy my Real Salt in bulk here. You can buy a shaker here, or a refill pouch here.)
  • 1 t. Pepper (Buy it here.)
  • 1 t. Ground Oregano (I buy mine here or you can buy it here.)
  • 1 t. Ground Basil (I buy mine here or you can buy it here.)
  • 1 t. Garlic Powder (I buy mine here or you can buy it here or here.)
  • 1 t. Onion Powder (I buy mine here or you can buy it here.)

Directions

  1. Thaw the chicken. If the chicken is frozen, try to remember to put it in the fridge for a day or two until it thaws out. If you’re in a pinch, fill the sink up with warm water and let it soak for an hour. (Don’t try to cook the chicken frozen.)
  2. Get the oven ready. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  3. Prepare the chicken. Once the chicken is thawed, pull out the giblets and give them to your cat/dog, rinse with cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and place in a roasting pan. (I like using a glass pan).
  4. Season. Sprinkle the seasonings generously all over the chicken, especially inside the cavity. I actually never measure my seasonings, I just try to coat the chicken evenly.
  5. Butter. Put the stick of butter inside the cavity of the chicken. (You could also rub some of the butter into the skin of the chicken. Just do it before you add the seasonings.) *Butter is not to be feared as we have so previously and erroneously thought. Read more here.)

    raw chicken with seasonings stuffed with butter in glass pan ready to be cooked

    Seasoned Whole Chicken Ready to be Cooked

  6. Bake. Bake at 350˚F for 1½ hours.

    roast chicken

    Roasted Chicken

  7. Let cool. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting. (This gives the juices a chance to settle in.) If you notice that the juice is really pink or that the chicken is still pink, cook for another 20 minutes and check again. If you’re the type who likes to check the internal temperature, it should read 165˚F.
  8. Cut into pieces. Peal the skin back and cut horizontal lines in the breast followed by vertical lines. Then cut down at an angle until you get big chunks of breast meat falling off the bone.

    pre-cut chicken breast on a cooked roasted chicken in a glass pan

    Pre-Cut Chicken Breast from a Roasted Chicken

  9. Soak the meat in the juice. Let these chunks of meat soak in the juice of the chicken. Cut the rest of the meat off the bones as much as possible. (To remove the chicken legs, find where the two bones connect and gently saw through the cartilage.) Leave the legs and wings intact if it suits your fancy. Let all of the meat soak in the juice, sprinkle with a fresh bit of salt, and serve! *My chicken legs never make it past my husband; they’re his favorite! 🙂

    roasted chicken breast meat cut up and soaking in juices legs cut off

    Roasted Chicken Meat Cut and Ready to Serve

  10. Save the scraps. Save the bones, skin, and all other remnants to make a healing chicken broth and/or use the chicken (and all of the juice of course) to make some delicious chicken soup!

Variations:

You can use any combination of the following variations. Try a few things out. See what you like and don’t like. Get creative and try something new!

  • Cut a lemon in half, gently squeeze both halves into the cavity of the chicken, and place both halves in there as well.
  • Peel some garlic cloves (about 4-6 nice sized ones) and place them in the cavity of the chicken.
  • Use rosemary, salt, and pepper only.
  • Chop up some big chunks of onion and place them around the chicken.
  • Cut up some potatoes (or leave them whole) and place them around the chicken.
  • Cut up some carrots and celery into big chunks and place them around the chicken.
Embracing Motherhood How to Make Bone Broth

How to Make a Nourishing Chicken Bone Broth

Making a good chicken bone broth (or chicken stock as it is also called) is one of the simplest and most nourishing things you can make. You can use it immediately to make some chicken soup, put it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it to use later, freeze it in ice cube trays to have little bursts of “bullion” to use whenever you need it, or you can simply sip a nice hot mug of it instead of coffee or as a snack/meal replacement.

Health Benefits of Chicken Broth

I love making soup of any kind because it provides a nice complete meal that can feed my family at a moment’s notice for the week, but I especially like making any kind of soup with chicken bone broth because it is pretty much the most healing and most nutritious food there is.

Chicken bone broth is easy to both digest and metabolize (two things that are very different yet people think are the same…I’ll be exploring this in more depth at a later time). This makes it perfect the perfect food when you are trying to heal from any chronic illness or are sick with the flu or the common cold.

During digestion, the gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid that attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, which helps to support proper digestion. In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon also states that chicken soup,

“Has a natural ingredient which feeds, repairs and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine. This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system. It is easily pulled away from the intestine through too many laxatives, too many additives…and parasites.”

Chicken broth also contains valuable minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals that are in a form your body can easily absorb. When your body is healing, you NEED these nutrients from nutrient dense food to heal.

Another cool thing about bone broth is that because of the anti-inflammatory acids such as arginine, it helps to inhibit infection caused by cold and flu viruses. In her article, Broth is Beautiful, Sally Fallon explains,

“Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.”

My Recipe

Ok, so are you ready to make some broth? For such a simple meal, there sure are a lot of different recipes for bone broth. With four young children underfoot, I like to cook food that’s as nutritious as possible as simply as possible. This is why I don’t add anything (except apple cider vinegar, which helps to draw out the minerals) to my bone broth. You can surely get creative and add whatever you’d like, but if you’re looking for simple, you’ve come to the right place!

Ingredients

  • One Whole Roasted Chicken (Preferably organic and pastured, the stock will not gel properly with a battery-raised chicken.)
  • One Large Pot
  • Cold Filtered Water
  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (This pulls the minerals, especially calcium, out of the chicken bones.)
  • Optional: Carrot tops and pieces, celery stalks and leaves, onion skins and onion, parsley, and salt (I usually don’t add any of these ingredients except the salt, and I wait to add that at then end so that I can salt it to my taste preference. If you’re going to add parsley, wait until the very end.)
  • Advanced: Chicken feet (Provides a more gelatinous broth.)

Directions

  1. Roast your chicken. You can read more about my roasted chicken here, but basically, I stuff mine with a stick of butter and season with salt, pepper, and onion powder and bake at 350° F for 1.5 hours.

    roast chicken

    Roast Chicken

  2. Pick off the meat. I like to cut my breasts into cubes before cutting off the bone. Then I methodically pick off all usable pieces of meat, cut into bite size pieces, leave all pieces to soak (Don’t you dare waste the drippings!) in the remaining chicken juice, cover, and store in the refrigerator until the next day.

    Pick the Meat Off the Bones

    Pick the Meat Off the Bones

  3. Save all skin, bones, and other parts. I do typically discard the giblets (unless my cats want to eat them), but other than that, every last little scrap goes into my pot including the carcass, bones, skin, and any other little tidbits. I also like to leave just a titch of meat on the bones for extra flavor.

    Save ALL of Your Chicken Scraps

    Save ALL of Your Chicken Scraps

  4. Cover with water. After filling the pot with your chicken scraps, fill to just about the brim with cold filtered water.

    Chicken Bits Covered with Water

    Chicken Bits Covered with Water

  5. Apple cider vinegar. You have to be careful that you don’t add too much or you will really taste it. You might want to start with just a teaspoon and adjust to taste. Even though 2 tablespoons would be most effective, I usually only add about a teaspoon because that’s the flavor I like.
  6. Slow boil. Bring the water to a slow boil and skim any scum that comes to the top. (These are impurities.)
  7. Cover and simmer. Cover and reduce to a low rolling boil. (On my stove, this usually hovers around a 2 or 3.) Ideally, you’ll want it to simmer for a good 24-36 hours for the maximum benefit, but at the very least, just let it simmer overnight.

    bone broth cooling

    Bone Broth Cooling

  8. Cool and strain. Turn off the burner, let it cool, then strain into a separate bowl through a colander. You’ll notice that the bones will be soft and break apart easily. Do not feed them to any animals, it will tear up their insides.

    straining the broth

    Straining the Broth

  9. Enjoy! Time to put your broth to use.
    • Chicken Soup: Add some chicken, celery, carrots, and soaked barely to make a simple chicken soup.

      Chicken Soup Bowl

      Chicken Soup

    • Egg Drop Soup: Bring it to a boil, add some Bragg Liquid Aminos, Sriracha, and eggs to make an egg drop soup to die for.

      egg drop soup

      Egg Drop Soup

    • Store in the Freezer: Store your stock in Ziploc bags in the freezer. (Just be sure to lay them flat instead of plopping them on a rack where they will freeze while seeping through the cracks and then rip open when you try to take it out later….um, personal experience!)
    • Freeze into Cubes: Freeze in ice cube trays to save for smaller size portions to use instead of those MSG laden “bullion cubes”.
    • Sip It: Pour into a mug to sip on. Sometimes, I like adding some Bragg Liquid Aminos and Sriracha for a spicy oriental flavor!

      Bone Broth in a Mug

      Bone Broth in a Mug

In Conclusion

If there is one food that you could add to your family’s meal plan that would make the most difference, I would say that bone broth is in the top ten for sure! If you’re not much of a cook, don’t worry! You can hardly get this recipe wrong! If you are, there are certainly a lot of variations you could try to make this a gourmet dish. As we enter another cold winter season full of viruses, I’m sure that I’ll be finding ways to incorporate this bone broth into our diets on a regular basis.

See more ideas for what to make with this broth in my soup section.

Embracing Motherhood chicken cordon bleu

The Best Chicken Cordon Bleu You’ll Ever Taste!

This is the best chicken cordon blue recipe I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The taste is amazing and complex, but it is seriously easy to make.

I have so many other blogs that I want to write right now, but I just have to take a moment to share this recipe that I stumbled upon for chicken cordon bleu because it is soooooo good! (Thanks mortgage company newsletter!)  I have tried making this before, and I always felt like I needed a sauce to go along with it, but the way that all of these ingredients work together makes a sauce or any sides even…irrelevant.

Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless Chicken Breast Halves
  • 1 lb of Deli Ham
  • 1 lb of Swiss Cheese
  • 1 Cup of Melted Butter
  • 4 Slices of Bread (I prefer sourdough.)
  • Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Paprika, really…whatever you fancy

Directions

  1. Preheat the Oven: to 350º F
  2. Cut the Chicken: Use a really sharp knife to cut the breasts into layers that are ¼ thick.

    My Workstation for chicken cordon bleu

    My Workstation

  3. Ham and Swiss: Top each chicken breast filet with a slice of cheese and then ham.
  4. Roll It: Roll, tuck the ends, and secure with a couple of toothpicks.
  5. Butter: Use a glass bowl to melt the butter (the shallower the better), then dip the entire roll in it. Make sure the butter gets into every crevice.
  6. Breadcrumbs: Use a blender, or crumble by hand, the slices of bread. Add your preferred seasonings and mix. After dipping the chicken in butter, roll it around in the breadcrumbs.
  7. Baking Pan: Place the chicken rolls into a (preferably glass) baking pan. You can squish them together pretty closely.

    Ready to bake my chicken cordon bleu!

    Ready to bake!

  8. Cook: Bake for 40 minutes at 350º F.

    chicken cordon bleu out of the oven

    Ok…so a few are missing already. 🙂

  9. Serve: Serve alone or with noodles or rice and some sort of veggie like broccoli or asparagus.

    Kid's Plate of chicken cordon bleu

    Kid’s Plate

Embracing Motherhood Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Do You Have Lead in Your Water?

Ever since the Flint water scandal, my husband and I have both been a bit more concerned about lead being in our water. We are fortunate enough to live in a city that does not flouridate its water…check to see what’s in your city’s water here, and we’ve always used a simple faucet filter, but we wanted to learn a little more.

 

So we ordered these testing strips and learned that our water had no noticeable levels of lead, chlorine, copper, or bacteria. And when I tested the water that came through the filter, I got the exact same results, so guess what? We ditched our filter. 🙂 Our water did test at being very hard (which is probably why the previous owners installed a water softener system), but after doing some research, I learned that having hard water means that it’s full of a lot of minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that are very good for your body, but will clog up your coffee pot tubes, shower heads, and leave dirty rings in your tub and toilet. We have opted to simply clean things out a bit more and enjoy the benefit of the extra minerals!

In this article, I’d like to share what I learned about the Flint water scandal, what’s so bad about having lead in your body, how to detoxify from lead poisoning, how to know if your water has lead, the best filters to get lead out of your water, and other sources that might lead to lead poisoning, .

The Flint Water Scandal

Basically, Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early, was faced with the task of saving the failing city money and on April 25, 2014, he oversaw the switch from Detroit’s water supply (that drew from Lake Huron) to the Flint River (while waiting for their own regional water system connection to Lake Huron to be built).

The contents of the water in the Flint River are actually not to blame for all of the lead. Instead, the blame lies with the high levels of chloride ions (present from the over deicing of the roads which causes chloride ions to run off into waterways) that are really to blame. Nick Krieger explains in his article, “What Makes Flint Water So Corrosive,”

“The negative chloride ions are corrosive, so when the high-chloride water is pumped through lead pipes (or iron and copper pipes joined together with lead solder), lead leaches into the water.  It’s as simple as that.”

Flint could have added orthophosphate to neutralize these chloride ions for $100/day, but it chose not to. As a result, the lead pipes corroded and leached lead into the water. In addition, the corroded pipes allowed other contaminants such as bacteria from the soil that led to a spike in those contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease.

One of the most disturbing factors of the Flint water scandal were the people in charge who KNEW it was going on and yet did NOTHING!

On October 1st, 2104, 6 months after the switch to the Flint River, General Motors complained that its car parts were corroding when being washed on the assembly line, so they were quietly hooked back up to the Lake Huron Water. Meanwhile, residents complained about tainted, foul-smelling tap water and health symptoms such as rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it, but nothing was done for them. It took ONE YEAR of complaints, independent tests, lawsuits, national, and global recognition and FINALLY in October of 2015, the switch back Lake Huron through Detroit’s water system was made. (Read A Toxic Timeline of Flint’s Water Fiasco for a truly flabbergasting timeline of events.)

Now, under the public eye, Flint is faced with the insurmountable task of replacing all of the corroded lead pipes, which could take over two years and cost upwards of $60 million! And what are residents of Flint supposed to do in the meantime? You can only drink and bathe in bottled water for so long…and not only that, but plastic water bottles leach chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the water. (Which is why we try to stick with glass water bottles when we can!)

What’s So Bad About Lead?

Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children whose bodies and brains are still developing and growing. There are no levels of lead in the blood that are considered safe for children. While lead exposure can be stopped, the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.

Even low levels of lead can cause the following side effects.

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage
  • Seizures, unconsciousness, and death

If adults ingest lead, 99% of it will leave in their waste in a couple of weeks. But with children, only about 32% of the lead taken in will leave in their waste. Under conditions of repeated exposure, lead (and other toxic metals…mercury, aluminum, cadmium) can accumulate in body tissues, even the bone. Even if you have removed the threat of lead, lead that has accumulated in the body can continue to do damage.

Get Lead (and Other Toxic Metals) Out of Your Body

If you’re worried that your child has been exposed to lead, go to your doctor (or free health clinic) to get a test done right away. They will be able to tell you after a simple finger poke if there is any lead present in your child’s blood and what the implications are. Lead that has accumulated in the body can take months or years to be expelled, so it’s a good idea to continue taking precautions to get rid of it long after the threat has been removed.

There are certain foods can help to get rid of lead accumulation in the body. The phytic acid present in all grains, seeds, nuts, etc. prevents our bodies from absorbing valuable minerals, but also chelates (binds to and removes) toxic metals from our bodies. One of the best sources for phytic acid is brown rice (that hasn’t been properly soaked and fermented to get rid of the phytic acid). Other sources would be any nuts, seeds, or anything “whole grain”.

Cilantro oil and chlorella are also really good at working in tandem to to eliminate lead (and other toxic metals) and they will actually add more vitamins and minerals to your body rather than leech them away! Get some cilantro oil here and some chlorella here. It’s also a good idea to take some really good vitamin c (not with ascorbic acid) to boost your immune system while you detoxify. *Check out some other great detox ideas here.

Check with your doctor or naturopath before starting a detox program with your child, but some general rules of thumb are to start with small doses using just a few drops at a time, and make sure it is really diluted with some other liquid.

Is There Lead in Your Water?

It’s not just Flint who has a problem with lead in their water source. In a Rolling Stone article by Tessa Stuart called, “It’s Not Just Flint: America Has a Major Lead-in-Water Problem” she explains that,

“There’s always going to be some amount of lead in some amount of homes — it could be from the service line, or from lead solder used as glue in some pipes, from leaded brass plumbing, or a myriad of other sources. “Most homes in the United States are going to have some form of lead-bearing plumbing,” Lambrinidou says.”

Check your water: You can go to the National Drinking Water Database, enter your zipcode, look for your city, and see exactly what they have found in your water.

Test your water: Or you can buy your own kit, like this, for $20 and it will test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrites/nitrates, chlorine, hardness, and pH.

Best Water Filters to Get the Lead (and Other Toxins) Out

If you decide that you want to filter your water (probably a good idea), here are some filters you might want to consider. (FYI: Stay away from reverse osmosis filters because they filter out EVERYTHING including all of the good minerals that you want to keep!)

  • Radiant Life 14-Stage Biocompatible Water Purification System ($1,595) – This is WAY out of our price range, but if you’re looking for the best of the best…It gets rid of ALL toxins, and you can tuck it away under your sink. (Also, if you’re trying to convince your significant other that you want to buy a $120 water filter, give them a choice between the $120 one and this one. The $120 one will suddenly seem like a much better deal!)

  • Berkey Complete Water Filtration System ($289) – This system is incredible! Not only will it work on city water, but you can take it with you camping to use on some pond water! It will filter out bacteria, parasites, pesticides, nitrites, nitrates, and gets rid of 99.9% of heavy metals (including lead and mercury). This model also comes with flouride filters.

  • AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System ($120) – This is cheaper than the Berkey and takes up less room on the counter (or you can get an under the counter version for $261). It filters out bacteria, parasites, 99% of chlorine, 99% of lead, 98% of other heavy metals, 95% of arsenic, 99.9% of glyphosates, 92% of nitrates, and gives an 85% reduction in flouride. It easily connects to a standard faucet with no tools and requires no electricity or permanent modifications to plumbing.

Lead Isn’t Just In Water

In 1978, the government banned the use of lead based paint in houses, so most homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead. When the paint chips and peels, children are especially susceptible to ingesting it because little fingers like to pick and peal and those little paint chips and then they don’t wash their hands before eating food. Not only that, but the dust from the peeling lead paint can be inhaled.

If there are no chips or scratches, you can paint over the lead based paint, and keep painting it every 4-10 years to prevent any from showing through. If there are, it’s best to call in a professional to remove the paint…or just move!

In Conclusion

 

The Flint water scandal was an eye opening headline that got everybody thinking about what is in our water. We bath in it, we cook with it, we water our garden with it, and we drink it…so it’s good to know what we’re taking in with our water. I highly recommend getting your water tested, and if you live in an old house, do some research about lead paint. I also highly recommend getting your children tested for lead poisoning if you have any doubt or even just to ease your mind.