Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Month of Medicine Cabinet Detox Projects - Beginning With Honey Ginger Lemon Tea!

A few years ago, I began my "Cabinet Detox" projects after doing quite a bit of research on foods, ingredients and skin care products - and then reviewing the labels of the items in my cabinets.   To my utter shock and disgust, the products I had previously believed to be "healthy" were anything but.  It also began to dawn on me that just because I had been using certain products and eating certain foods for most of my life, those foods and products were not necessarily good for me or my body.  They were just "familiar", and possibly even recommended by one of my doctors.  So, rather than overwhelming myself with information and crazy recipes from Pinterest containing ingredients I couldn't locate, I took my husband's advice and simply took baby steps by completing one Cabinet Detox project at a time.

I found a great website containing information on herbalism, located a good herb supplier, and started making minor changes to my purchasing and eating habits (more organic and whole wheat foods, less preservatives and  processed foods, simpler skin care products).  It has been a long, slow process - one that is definitely still in progress - but baby steps DO make a difference, and before you know it, you are making multiple, positive changes to the products - and even the "medicines" - that you are using.  Those changes, once enacted, begin to build on one another, and after a few years, you realize you have quite an arsenal of recipes, and that your cabinets don't look anything like they used to.  For example, I began my Cabinet Detox Projects by replacing some of my personal care products with homemade ones, including Deodorant, moisturizing Lotion Bars and Lip Balm.  I also began overhauling my medicine cabinet, and over the last few years concocted Honey Ginger Lemon Tea and Elderberry Syrup for flu prevention and basic immune system boosting during the Fall and Winter months; Homemade Vapor Rub; Honey Onion Cough Syrup; and Garlic Cayenne Oxymel.  In addition, I just finished making a much stronger Elderberry Elixir (for adults) and HOT Fire Cider for the cold and flu season that I am very excited to share with you over the course of this month!

Considering both my kids are just getting over nasty sinus infections and sore throats, I have been using the Honey Ginger Lemon Tea and Elderberry Syrup quite a bit lately :). To whet your appetite, my recipe for Honey Ginger Lemon Tea is below. This tea is easy to make, tastes great, and I can attest that it greatly reduces the symptoms and duration of colds that I have had.   According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginger, in addition to helping in the treatment of the common cold and flu-like symptoms, can also be used to treat motion sickness, vomiting and painful menstrual bleeding.  I keep a bag of peeled, sliced ginger in the freezer year-round, as well as a bottle of lemon concentrate in the fridge in case symptoms strike when fresh ginger and lemons are not in the house.   I whip up a batch as soon as anyone in the family begins feeling sick, and then at least twice per day until the sickness is gone.  I hope you give it a try!  Stay tuned this month for more great Medicine Cabinet Detox Projects :)

Honey Ginger Lemon Tea

1/2-inch to 1-inch slice of fresh (or frozen) ginger root, peeled
4 cups water
3 squeezes fresh lemon juice (or one good squeeze of concentrate)
1 teaspoon raw honey (or more or less to taste)

In a saucepan on the stove, bring ginger root and water to a boil, then reduce to simmering for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced to half the original amount.  Remove from heat, pour into a mug, add lemon juice and honey, and enjoy!
*Please note - since ginger may increase the risk of bleeding, consult a doctor regarding ginger use if you are currently taking blood-thinning medications (including aspirin), diabetes medication or high-blood pressure medication (ginger may lower blood pressure in some people).*

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup w/ Italian Sausage Meatballs

It's not as difficult as it looks - trust me.  If you roast the squash ahead of time, the actual soup making process is really quick, and can be done on a weeknight.  I don't put soup in food processors, no matter what the recipe says, because I'm rather clumsy (ladling hot liquid into an electrical device?  Um, no thanks). In this case, I used my (cheaply made) immersion blender, and it worked just fine.  I decided to whip up the meatballs so that my picky family would actually eat it.  If I served the soup alone in a bowl, I would get all kinds of "ick" faces and whining, so I decided to sidestep that and make it yummier in the process.  My husband and 5-year-old loved it.  The 2-year-old ate it, and that was good enough for me.  I thought it was delish, and a nice, warm, hearty meal for a cold fall day :)

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup With Italian Sausage Meatballs

2 medium acorn squash
4-6 cups chicken broth (I added a little chicken bouillon for added flavor)
salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs fresh sage, chopped (or 1 Tbs dried)
Some of the sausage oil
Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish

Slice the acorn squash lengthwise and remove seeds and pulp.  Place with the cut side down on a roasting pan filled with 1/2 cup water in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (or until cooked through and tender).  Remove and let cool.  Once cool, scoop out the squash and mash it with a fork.  Place in an airtight container in the fridge if you are making the soup another day.  If not, add the squash to a large saucepan with the chicken broth, salt, pepper, onion powder, butter and sage, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until meatballs are finished.  When meatballs are done, pour some of the oil from the pan into the soup. Prior to serving, blend with an immersion blender.  Top with meatballs and Parmesan or Romano cheese.

5 links mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 egg
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs (or omit for a GF version)
a sprinkle of garlic powder
1/8 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/8-1/4 cup frying oil (olive, coconut, etc.)

Mix all ingredients well.  Form into small balls and fry in oil until cooked through.  Serve with soup immediately.
Sweet and Savoury Sunday

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Make Your Own Granola Cereal - No Refined Sugar or Preservatives!

If you're looking for a great-tasting, EASY granola cereal recipe that is free of preservatives and refined sugar (and can easily be made Gluten Free by substituting GF oats), check out my guest post on Home Hearted!  While you're there, take a look at Madalyn's other awesome crafty ideas and recipes :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Detox Project: Make Your Own Tinted Lip Balm (This One Smells Like Fall!)

Last year, I posted a Peppermint-Cocoa lip balm recipe that is perfect for the holidays.  Ever since then, I have been wanting to make a tinted version that would be just as natural, but without the Cocoa Butter (it has a strong scent).  I ended up using this base recipe from Wellness Mama, tweaked it a little, and absolutely LOVE the result!  I also love the fact that I can apply this several times a day without worrying about the presence of harmful chemicals (like petroleum derivatives) on my lips or in my mouth, and I can let my kids use it as well.

Please note that the tint adds only a hint of color to the lips, and this picture is deceiving because my camera is not great - it comes out more of a caramel color.  As I mention in the title, though, it smells like Fall and I simply can't get enough of it!

Tinted Lip Balm Recipe
1 tsp Beeswax Pastilles**
1 tsp Shea Butter**
1 tsp Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp Elderberry Syrup or Honey
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
2 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
1 drop Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Directions:  Melt the beeswax, Shea butter and coconut oil in a glass bowl in the microwave (about 1 minute - only until melted).  Quickly add the syrup or honey, cinnamon and oils.  Stir vigorously and continuously until well blended (might take a few minutes).  Once the mixture is blended, pour quickly into chapstick containers.  Let cool completely before using.  This recipe will make 2 chapsticks.

**I purchased the Shea butter, beeswax pastilles and chapstick containers from Mountain Rose Herbs.**

++Please Note: If you add cinnamon or another spice to this recipe, it will act as a type of "scrub" if you don't strain it out.  I don't mind it, but if you want a smooth balm, just use a tea ball or other small strainer and strain it as you pour it into your container.++

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cabinet Detox: Easy Homemade Vapor Rub (For Babies, Kids & Adults)

Call me over-prepared, but yes, I'm making vapor rub in October, when it happens to be 75 degrees outside!  I grew up using Vick's Vapor Rub, and there's just something about the smell that is comforting when I have a cold or cough.  Due to the fact that OTC vapor rub contains petroleum derivatives, and the camphor in it can sometimes be too strong to use on kids, I have been wanting to make my own for a long time.  I finally found the perfect base for the recipe over at Home Hearted - Madalyn's Natural Vaseline Recipe has an amazing texture and blends right into the skin without leaving a greasy feel.  I simply added varying amounts of essential oils to the recipe  in order to make the Baby/Kids and Adult versions.  The smell is just as comforting to me as Vick's Vapor Rub always has been, and I'm elated to have a vapor rub on hand that I can use on myself and on the kids without having to worry about the presence of any nasty ingredients.  Thanks, Madalyn, for the awesome Vaseline recipe!

According to an article on essential oils from the University of Minnesota, "As a rule of thumb, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier substance (vegetable or nut oil, or water) at no greater concentration than 3-5%.  That means if you have one teaspoon (5cc) of carrier, you would add 3 drops of pure essential oil. This would make a 3% solution that could be used on a portion of the body...For infants, using a 0.25% solution is recommended (.5% for toddlers)."  I used this information in the formulation of the following rubs.

Vapor Rub For Kids

2 Tbsp olive oil
1.5 Tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp Vitamin E oil
1/2 tsp beeswax
2 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil (or less)
2 drop Peppermint Essential Oil (or less)

Directions:  Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe glass bowl or cup and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or until beeswax is melted.  Remove from microwave and add the essential oils.  Quickly pour into a tin or small glass jar.  **For the Baby Version:  Add only 1 drop of Eucalyptus oil and 1 drop of Peppermint oil.**

Vapor Rub For Adults

2 Tbsp olive oil
1.5 Tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp Vitamin E oil
1/2 tsp beeswax
24-30 drops essential oils (a combination of Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Clove)

Directions:  Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe glass bowl or cup and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or until beeswax is melted. Remove from microwave and add the essential oils.  I added approx. 18 drops Eucalyptus, 8 drops of Peppermint, and 4 drops of Clove.  Quickly pour into a tin or small glass jar.

The recipes will make approximately 1 2-oz tin.  **Please note that the scent is very strong when you first put the essential oils into the mixture, but it diminishes substantially upon drying.**