Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are you spending as much as you "should" on groceries?

I recently came across a copy of the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels. Considering the average cost of food in July of 2009, it breaks the cost down into four categories: Thrifty Plan, Low-Cost Plan, Moderate Cost Plan, and Liberal Plan. It breaks it down to age of child and age of man or woman and you can figure out what groceries "should" be costing you.

I figured it for us, using the Thrifty Plan figures. According to that, we should be spending $152.30/week, or $660.10 a month. Wow. My goal each month has been to keep it under/around $500. I guess I find this is a bit encouraging(since we've been close to that each month, but I haven't kept a close eye the last few months to be sure...) and gives me some perspective. I am really doing all right, at least according to the government's standards...

I think at the start of next month I will keep a closer tab on what I am spending, just to see for sure how I am doing.

Check it out for yourself and do the math and see what you can learn about your own food spending! :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

BioAllergenix, continued

I went in for my appointment the other day.
I have been having little bouts with my allergies off and on while outside(pollens? mold on the corn?). I have NOT been taking an antihistamine on a regular basis(though I did when we were hauling wood for a day or two) so I am still doing better than I have done for years.
I had also been reacting to some food(s). I wrote down my suspected allergens to present when I went in.
I have also been having a really hard time sleeping for the last 2 weeks or so.

My doc checked out my list and got kind of an idea of what REALLY bothers me most. Then she went and got the little vials that I believe are leftover from when they did NAET and have been used with me at the same office with AAT. She picked out my suspected ones that were available in the box(there is not nearly the same selection as with either of the computer systems), and routinely handed them to me one at a time and did muscle testing. The only one that I tested weak to was Tomato. Not a big surprise as my dad has tomato allergy and I know I have been eating it my whole life and was probably allergic to it much of that time. Also, from previous research I have read that the nightshades can be difficult to treat just once with success. I'm sure it doesn't help that I have been processing them a lot the last month or two--lots of exposure, there!

I was glad to be able to test some of my other allergens with the muscle testing and find they were ok: garlic, basil(the closest I could get to mint-they are in the same family), mushroom, and coconut.

So, after loading the BioAllergenix system up with the grasses, good ol' corn, tomato, peppers and beans(my other suspects), I was treated for them. I went home and stayed inside with the windows closed until this morning. Ate only a hamburger(no bun) and pickled beets for dinner, had Craisins and raw pumpkin seeds and raw milk for a snack.

I slept better than I have slept for weeks! Yay!
I have tomatoes ready and waiting to be made into sauce, but I think I am going to let them wait a few more days before I greatly expose myself to them again. Give the treatment a little longer to hold, ya know? (I have no idea whether it would make any difference to wait longer or not, but I figure it probably couldn't hurt anything!).

Ginger Mushroom Chicken Soup - Good for what ails ya!

I have been reading a lot lately about the different foods that are good to boost our immune systems, and decided that since the kids are fighting something(as am I) after going back to school, I would try to implement many of these foods into a soup.

I decided to start with good ol' chicken soup, and work from there.

Here is what I came up with.
I put an * next to the especially immune-boosting foods.

Ginger Mushroom Chicken Soup

3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium onions, chopped
*5 cloves of garlic, minced
*1 heaping TB of minced Ginger (I used Ginger People Pantry Essentials Minced Ginger)
*4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water and sliced or torn(I added the water to the pot too)
*Generous quart of chicken stock(bone broth is even better!)
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced

Put oil in your soup pan and cook onions and garlic until translucent.
Add Ginger, shiitake mushrooms, chicken stock, carrots and celery.
Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until carrots and mushrooms are tender.

Enjoy hot with whole grain (or Gluten-free) crackers.
Makes about 4 servings.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to make Bone Broth

Bone broth is very simple to make, and much better for you than a canned broth from the store. It contains many minerals that are made readily available for the body to absorb, as well as a whole host of other good ingredients. It is more flavorful AND less expensive! It contains no added MSG, and you can easily regulate the sodium level and fat levels. I guess Grandma knew what she was doing when she was making her chicken stock for chicken soup when you were sick!

When I buy a chicken, I generally assume that I can stretch it for at least 3 meals. The first meal is based on roasted chicken and side dish veggies, the second meal is a casserole/sandwiches/wraps/quesadillas from the remaining meat, and the third meal(and fourth?) is soup made from the bone broth/stock and whatever remaining meat there was on the bones and of course added veggies.

Method 1: Crockpot
The way I have been making bone broth for the last few years has been to roast a chicken, remove most of the meat from the carcass, and put the carcass in the crockpot full of water to cook overnight. I include whatever veggies and spices I am in the mood for. I usually include:

A few carrots, washed and broken in half.
A few stalks of celery(especially the leaves)
A whole onion, including the skin
About 1-2 tsp of salt
About 1 tsp of pepper
A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar to help break down the bones quicker
A few teaspoons of dried herbs of choice

The next morning, turn off crockpot and allow broth to cool. Strain through a colander, remove meat from bones and put broth/meat in containers. Freeze or use within the next few days.

Method 2: Pressure Cooker
Last weekend I roasted a chicken and took off most of the meat. I didn't want to have the crockpot running all night, though, and have to deal with it in the morning, so decided to try making bone broth in the pressure cooker.

I put my usual chicken and veggies in the pot, filled it about 1/2-2/3 full with water(read your manual for how full to fill your own pressure cooker), and added some fresh herbs from my garden(few sprigs each of marjoram, basil and flat leaf parsley).

I brought it to pressure(15lbs) and cooked it about an hour and a half, then took it off the heat and let it cool on the stove rather than running cool water on the cooker.

This bone broth is AMAZING, compared to the Crockpot method! I think I will be doing it this way from now on! I used the broth a few days later to make an Awesome soup. Mmmmm!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Comparison of AAT and BioAllergenix

Many people have asked about the differences and similarities between AAT and BioAllergenix.
These comparisons are based on MY experiences. Others may have a different experience, since allergies effect us all differently, and physicians may choose to work slightly differently as well.

Advanced Allergy Therapeutics(AAT):

The basics:
  1. Is paid for on a per-visit basis.
  2. Testing is done with strength-testing by the doc, while patient is hooked up to the computer with an arm band.
  3. Treatment is only for one item/set of items in some cases, and consists of a 'thumper'(for lack of a better term) that is run down the spine a few times while the signal is being transmitted through the arm band.
  4. Avoid the treated substance for 2 hours.
  5. You work through a preliminary list of what you proved "weak" towards, and once you get done with that list you can pick and choose what you feel you are having problems with. You will be tested for that suspected allergen and if weak, then you will be treated for it.
  6. The next time you go in, you will be tested for the previous treatments to be sure they held before you move on to the next testing/treatment.
  1. I like that there is a lot of one-on-one contact with the doctor. In my opinion, this gives the doctor a fuller picture of where the patient is health-wise and helps to treat the whole person, not just the allergies.
  2. You can be retested for anything, if you suspect a treatment has not 'held'.
  3. The avoidance period is a mere 2 hours. After avoiding so many things for nearly a year, I could avoid anything for 2 hours!
  1. You are not able to treat as many allergens at one time as you are able to with BioAllergenix.
  2. Can get costly if you have a wide range of allergens.
  3. Is a much slower process than the BioAllergenix, especially if you have many allergies.

BioAllergenix(also referred to as Allergicare in some forums):

The basics:
  1. Is paid for in a lump-sum charge for the year(other docs may choose to do it differently and have different pricing).
  2. Testing is done by the computer while you are hooked up with 'clamps' on your fingers and it scans through MANY potential allergens.
  3. The first visit/test will bring up any number of foods in 18 Groups. The first treatment is for egg, and the next treatments will be on different days for whichever food groups that need to be treated. In some cases, many items in a Group will come up, but you can be treated for all of those items in the Group.
  4. There are many other tests/scans available. They include foods, pollens, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs, cleaning products, and also include things such as anxiety, ADD, etc. Not sure how it does it, but it does it somehow!
  5. Treatment involves the computer and a laser-light type tool, which is run over your skull and down your spine multiple times(eyes open, eyes closed, breath in and hold, breath out and hold) and on different points in your arm/hands and feet.
  6. Avoid the substance(s) until the next day(you can expose yourself to it after one full sleep cycle/night's sleep)
  7. Once you have made it through the basic scans, you can wait and see how things are working for you as your body gets used to the new way of doing things.
  8. If you seem to still be having problems, you go in and can request treatment for those problems.
  1. Has the capability of scanning for thousands of potential allergens in one appointment.
  2. Scans are relatively quick, as is treatment. Once you get past whatever you test allergic to in the first 18 groups, on the next scans you will be treated for ALL things that come up.
  3. Since it is paid for in one lump sum, you may be saving a LOT of money with BioAllergenix as opposed to AAT, if you have a lot of different allergies.
  4. Can go beyond allergens and test for other possible health problems.
  1. Many may not be able to afford the one lump sum payment, or be able to justify it if they only have a few allergies.
  2. Once you have gone through a particular scan, you cannot have that scan run again, as your body will not 'read' the same way and may give false information. You can, however, be retreated if you have a suspected allergen(such as ragweed and chenopods in my case).
  3. The avoidance period after treatment (keep away from the substance until you wake the next day) can be difficult, depending on what you are avoiding. You may be asked to fast completely, so be sure to go to your appointment with a full stomach! Try to schedule late in the day if you can to make it easier on yourself.
  4. Women who are on the first 3 days of their periods should wait to come in to be scanned/treated.

Both types of treatment have been helpful to me and have been life-changing. I have been somewhat frustrated with BioAllergenix as I was hoping to be allergen-free by now(I started just a few months ago), but perhaps my hopes were a bit too high. In any case, I have been feeling worlds better after having these treatments--better than I have in years! I can handle a sneezing fit here and there, since before I could not breathe through my nose through the months of August and September!

I am also enjoying being able to eat "normal" foods and not have to look at every ingredient on the label before eating anything. (Well, I do still read every label out of habit and watching our diets for unhealthy ingredients, but the point is, I don't HAVE to!)

Above all, I am so glad I can go to public places and not have reactions such as itchy nose, sneezing, itchy throat, and brain fog within minutes of walking in the door and fatigue after leaving. The grocery stores and church potluck days were not my favorite days for some time, merely because of the smell of the foods and people's fabric softener, perfumes, etc! But since being treated, I have gone to these places without thinking too much about it and have not had the brain fog and fatigue I dealt with for so long!

Praising God for working through these treatments and helping me feel better! Thank You, Lord!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

I decided it was time for a meatless dish, and since my allergies aren't making me miserable I decided to make the slightly labor-intensive Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos. I haven't made them in over a year due to my garlic and legume allergy and inability to find a corn-free tortilla. The time has come!

I didn't measure everything exactly, as I didn't want little bits of stuff sitting in the fridge, but here's the basic recipe.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

~1 lb bag of black beans, cooked in the crockpot and drained

~5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped up--enough to make about 5 cups

~3 cups of chopped onion
~4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
~1T minced green chile(I substituted minced banana pepper from the garden)
~small amount of oil
~3-4 tsp ground cumin

~1/2 c lightly packed cilantro leaves, chopped(I substituted flat leaf parsley from the garden-the cilantro is now coriander, lol)
~2 TB lemon juice(I substituted lime juice)
~heaping teaspoon salt

Tortillas-you choose the size you want. Of course, if you are Gluten-Free, be sure to use GF tortillas.

1. Sort, rinse and cook your beans in the crockpot early in the day/the day before. Mine took about 5 hours on high, but higher altitudes and different water may vary a lot. Canned beans can be used as well. (about 4 cans). Drain and set aside.

2. Peel and cube sweet potatoes, put in pan and cook as you would mashed potatoes until tender. Drain.

3. While sweet potatoes are cooking, chop onion, garlic, and chiles and cook in oil in skillet until tender. Add cumin and cook a little bit longer, stirring well.

4. Put beans in mixer, start it on low. Slowly add sweet potatoes, then cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and lastly the onion mixture.

5. Heat tortillas briefly so they are warm for folding. (I used the microwave for about 30 seconds or so). Put some bean mixture on each tortilla, roll it up and lay on greased pan.

6. Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes. Serve with your choice of toppings.

With this recipe, using Gordita-sized tortillas, I was able to make 16 burritos. I probably could have filled them more, but I didn't want to make them so big my kids couldn't eat them! :)