Thursday, April 28, 2011

Product Review: Melaleuca's Diamond Brite Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

Ever since I started this quest for better health 3 years ago, I have been in search of the elusive non-scented, well-cleaning, no-residue-leaving dishwasher detergent.

I think I have finally found a product that comes mighty close to meeting my criteria: Diamond Brite Automatic Dishwasher Detergent.

I was a little bummed when I got it at first, because the bottle is smaller than the size bottle that I was used to buying--but then I read the instructions and you only fill half of your detergent cup per load of dishes! So I did that, and my dishes came out all clean and sparkly AND I was not hit in the face with strong fragrant stench when I walked into the kitchen when the dishwasher was running!


I still balk a bit at the price(I am ever the price-cutter), but this detergent has many

Redeeming Qualities:
1. It doesn't STINK like almost every other dishwasher detergent out there that I have tried
2. It doesn't leave a filmy residue on the dishes--the kids/hubby aren't complaining that their drinks taste like soap
3. It actually gets the dishes clean and so far it has cleaned/kept my dishwasher clean of visible hard water(iron) residue (both problems I have had with more "natural" and homemade dishwasher detergents)
4. It uses less packaging than every other brand I have used, since I use less product per load

 I think I will keep getting this as long as it doesn't start bothering me in the future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Recipe: GF Pizza Crust

Last night I tried this recipe for Perfect Primal Gluten Free Pizza Crust. It took basic ingredients(w/o "gums" and other additives--a definite plus in my book), and was easy and quick.

The original recipe is above. Here is what I actually did:

GF Pizza Crust
~4 eggs
~1/3 cup coconut flour, sifted (I used Bob's Red Mill --from the health food store in the refrigerated section)
~1/3 cup flax meal(I use 1/3 cup whole flax and ground it in my bella kitchen mixer
~1/2 cup milk (I used 2%, rbgh-free milk--just a smidge over 1/2 cup to make my batter flow better)
~Seasonings of choice(I used garlic, oregano, and basil)

Set oven to 350*.
Mix the above until well combined. It should look like pancake batter.

Pour onto parchment paper on a pan into desired shape and bake 10 minutes.
Flip, bake 10 minutes longer. 

REMOVE FROM PARCHMENT PAPER and return crust to pan.

Set broiler on High.

Put desired toppings on pizza and broil about 1 minute--check on it, as you don't want to burn your pizza!

I think the original recipe said to broil it on the parchment paper. Bad idea--and good thing I was checking on my pizza, as the paper was actually charring and close to igniting! Hence my CAPITALS to let you know to take it off the parchment paper. ;-)

The guy in the video must have used a smaller pan than I used, as I was thinking this would make twice what it did. Turns out it worked ok for hubby and I--we actually had some left over for his lunch today! (and we didn't gorge ourselves last night like we might of had it made more)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Awareness: Carrageenan

As you all know, I am very aware of and have become pretty particular about what I eat.

I try to follow Michael Pollan's advice of only eating foods with ingredients you can pronounce and know where it came from. To avoid "edible food-like substances".  Just because you can eat it, doesn't mean you should, nor that it is good for you.

But it is extremely hard to truly avoid all that stuff! Exhausting even. I have to be alert at all times and remember hundreds (thousands?) of little details!  This is especially hard when I don't have control of what's to eat (restaurants, potlucks, etc).

I do definitely notice a positive difference when I am eating cleaner and usually notice when I try to sneak something in. (guinea pig that I am these days)

Last night, dh and I finished a tub of ice cream together since the kids were gone...and my throat itched all night! Ugh!  I also found it a little difficult to get a full breath, though I wouldn't call it wheezing.

Obviously, my guard was down. Especially since I have finally revived from the salad dressing incident on Monday.  How quickly one forgets.... *sigh*

I read the ice cream label this morning--there is carrageenan, locust bean gum and guar gum(soy) in the ice cream. Should have read it before I ate it, huh? (I so wish our local grocer carried the Haagen-Dazs 5...maybe I should request it.) I have suspected Carrageenan before and faithfully avoid it in half 'n half  and other dairy products(so hard to find half 'n half w/o it!) ...didn't think about it in the ice cream last night, as I've had small portions here and there w/o any noticeable problems. So, it's probably a proportional thing....I did have a full bowl last night...

I did a little research this morning and it turns out Carrageenan is pretty harsh on the gut. That same gut that I am going Gluten- and Nightshade-free to try to get some healing action going on.

Apparently, there are two types of Carrageenan. One type is undegraded (food grade) and the other is degraded (hydrolyzed with acid) and is not food grade. Although undegraded Carrageenan is GRAS(generally regarded as safe) by the FDA(who you all know I don't 100% trust...), according to this article, Joanne Tobacman, a teacher of clinical internal medicine at the University of Iowa College of Internal Medicine, has found evidence in human trials that may show that carrageenan is not as safe as we once thought.

Quoted from the above article:
Dr. Tobacman shared studies that demonstrate that digestive enzymes and bacterial action convert high weight carrageenans to dangerous low molecular weight carrageenans and poligeenans in the human gut. These carrageenans have been linked to various human cancers and digestive disorders. Again, Tobacman's evidence and conclusions are based upon human tissue samples, not animal studies.

 So, yeah, something good to note for those who have digestive issues.  And my digestive enzymes probably didn't do me any favors last night with the ice cream/Carrageenan.

One real bummer is that Carrageenan doesn't always have to be labeled if it is in foods/products. So it's hard to avoid it completely.

I actually took 2 Benadryl last night in hopes of sleeping through the itch that began within an hour of eating the ice cream...but it didn't help...which really leads me to believe that in this case it's not a histamine issue, it's a gut issue.  Or maybe it's just a LOT of histamine and the Benadryl couldn't suppress it all. Not sure...

I think it's really weird that I get these itchy throat reactions when things irritate my gut.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RECIPE: Venison-Stuffed Butternut Squash OR Make Somethin' Up to Use Up the Last Squash!

I have one lone Butternut Squash to use up. And it will have to be me eating it, 'cuz I'm the only one that eats it around here w/o it being disguised, hehe.

Tonight's the night!


Venison-stuffed Butternut Squash

~1 butternut squash, washed, halved, cored and a few holes poked in bottom to allow for some drainage

~1 lb venison sausage(sub. your own safe sausage--ours has salt, pepper, and a touch of fennel)
~1 large onion, chopped

~2 cloves of garlic, minced
~1-2 ribs of celery, chopped

~Mushrooms, chopped--I used one small can

~Salt and pepper, to taste
~Cumin, to taste (because I'm craving spice and am not doing nightshades)

~1 1/2 cups or so of shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Place prepped squash in a 9x13 baking dish. Salt and pepper it if desired. Set aside.

Brown venison and add remaining ingredients and cook well(I like my onions to get a little caramelized/browned).

Add cheese, stir until combined, and spoon into squash.

Cover and bake 350 for around an hour(check on it--you want your squash good and soft).

If desired, top with a bit more cheese and bake until browned on top.

I was in a hurry last night when I took this out of the oven, and dished it out before I went to take a pic---and then my batteries were dead! So up above is what you get until/unless I take a pic of my leftovers.

Looking back, I think the recipe would be improved by at least partially baking the squash before putting the stuffing in and baking.  Like I said, I was in a hurry last night. I had to put my portion in the microwave for a minute or two to sufficiently cook the squash. But it was good! :) And gluten-free!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gluten-free, Nightshade-free Observations on Day 35

Main theme/rediscovery of the day: Processed foods are still not my friend.

I have had a really great week overall. I think part of it was completely stripping our bed and washing ALL bedding on HOT....and the other part of it has been diet.

I have had nearly a week of nights where I was able to - amazingly - not wake up with the itchy throat(like I've gotten accustomed to). It is an entirely new feeling to wake up, refreshed, having slept well! At the same time, I have noticed that my jaw is not nearly so tense either(less damage to the ol' teeth is a good thing). Makes me wonder at just how big an impact low-grade reactions can have on the body's system!

I have done really well with staying away from processed food with ingredients I can't pronounce.

Until last night.

I got brave(stupid?) in my feeling-goodness, and thought I would have some of my hubby's Kraft Roka Brand Blue Cheese Dressing & Dip (complete with the long words that require lots of research to determine where they come from--soy is at the top of the list, which should have raised a blazing red flag, but it also has sodium lactate, the ubiquitous natural flavor, xanthan gum, phosphoric acid, polysorbate 60, propylene glycol alginate, artificial color, vitamin E and Natamycin----what was I thinking?????? )....and last night I was itching again... Grrr.


Lesson learned(for now, until I get brave/stupid again). Stay away from the processed food-like substances, my dear. Only extra-virgin olive oil on the salad in the meantime...

Speculation:  last night's itching *could* have been from the rainstorm last night(more humidity--> more  mold), BUT it's been rainy off and on for the whole last week and I've been fine at night (great, actually) so it's most likely the dastardly salad dressing.

And now my lower GI is paying the price today. Maybe TMI, but it is what it is.

7 steps forward....3 steps back. 7 great days.....bad exposure.....3 days to get the symptoms of exposure back out of my system.

Live and Learn, eh?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Review - Crazy Love by Francis Chan

I and a group of friends have just finished reading and discussing Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and I do believe that we would all recommend it to others to read.

In Crazy Love, Chan points the reader to Christ and His love for us, and challenges the reader to live wholeheartedly for Him, returning the Savior's love for us.  To the world, this relationship will, indeed, look like Crazy Love.

Crazy Love is chock full of challenges and personal examples of what living out that love might look like for each believer.  One challenge to our group as mothers of young children was what we would do if faced with the opportunity to take a complete stranger(and family) into our own homes for an indefinite time.  This sparked a lot of discussion and provoked a lot of thought as to why we had the feelings we had...and whether some of those feelings needed to change.    The book also challenged us to look at our own lives and how we are living(type of home, vehicle we drive, money we spend...) and see how we can change for the glory of God.

This book is a wonderful tool for a book discussion group, with plenty to explore and talk about late into the night and ponder for weeks to come. I would even venture to say that I will be re-reading(and re-marking/highlighting) and pondering this book yet again.

I want to share a few things  that really jumped out at me:
1. Awe Factor Video - Never forget Who God is--our very Creator!

2. The point of your life is to point to Him...all that matters is the reality of who we are before God.

3. God will ensure my success in accordance with His plan, not mine. (What man defines as "success" is rarely the same as what God would label Success).

4. Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe....slaves to the god of control.  Yeah, still working on that one...

5. If life is a river, pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, we automatically begin to be swept downsteam. To pursue Christ is to follow Him deliberately, not passively.

6. Jesus didn't die only to save us from hell; He also died to save us from our bondage to sin as we live our lives on this earth.

7. What matters is how we use what we've been given, not how much we make or do compared to someone else.  What matters is that we Spend Ourselves.

8. Are you driven by fear...or love? Do you obey out of wanting to please and serve Him. Are you OBSESSED with Him?

9. Read about followers of Christ who have gone on before us, and see how they lived, completely relying on and obsessed with Christ. Ex. Rachel Saint, Rich Mulling, George Mueller just to name a few...

10. Ask yourself, "Is this the most loving way to do life? Am I loving my neighbor and my God by living where I live, by driving what I drive, by talking how I talk?"...Is this what I want to be doing when Christ comes back?

I challenge you to read this book (even better--read it with a friend or group of friends and discuss!). You will be challenged in your faith and your life will be changed as you seek to deliberately live for Christ.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: Ted Dekker's Circle Series....Black, Red, White, etc.

I admit it. I am a fiction snob. I have my favorites (generally historical fiction but also some light sci-fi) and the English major in me tends to shun uber-predictable formula fiction as, well, blase'.

Which makes it hard for me to find a read that I really, truly get into and not feel like I've wasted my time reading it.

I have waited for what seems like ages (well, it has been several years) to find an author who (in my opinion) shows promise of giving me some satisfactory escapism as I wait patiently for my other favorite authors to publish their next books.

That author of promise is Ted Dekker.

The first book I read by him, Showdown, was pretty good. I wasn't sold on him at that point, though. In Showdown, he writes about an area of Colorado I am fairly familiar with, and though the setting piqued my interest, the places in the book didn't exactly match the real deal. (well, duh, it is a fictional place...unless of course anyone has happened upon an underground monastery in those parts??? hehe) Most people wouldn't know that, though. I also realise, as I am mid-way through the Circle Series, that Showdown was probably written mid-way through writing this series(not sure, haven't checked all the copyright dates), as I think I remember some allusions to the Raison Strain in Showdown. I might need to give it a second chance...

I was introduced to Ted Dekker's Circle Series as I was listening to a friend describe to someone else the fascinating things happening in the book she was reading. After hearing the discussion, I had to get my hands on these books and give them a try.

Halfway through Black, and I was hooked.  Finally, a story with depth and meaning (well beyond the scope of the book)!  Last night I finished Red and then promptly started White.

The books are set circa 2010. Thomas Hunter, the main character, finds himself having dreams that are outlandish, yet have serious implications on the future of the "real world".  A virus called the Raison Strain is about to be set loose in the "real world" and Thomas seeks to find the information he needs in the dream world in order to save the "real world".

There is deep symbolism and many parallels in these books are to Biblical stories and people's(both historically and present) relationships with God. One overriding theme throughout the series is what is called the Great Romance. This is about the relationships both between the characters themselves and between the characters and God/Elyon. 

As a follower of Christ, these books have made me think more about my faith and and grow in my faith in Christ. I would recommend the books both to fellow believers and to those looking for a good edge-of-your-seat potential-end-of-the-world read.

Christian or not, I don't think you would be disappointed. Dekker has amazing talent and is a very gifted storyteller.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Basics of Gardening

Gardening seems to be the topic of the season, as temperatures rise, the sun starts to show its warm face and the seed packets start appearing in stores.

I thought I would share some things to consider as you plan your garden this year.

1. Wait until the soil has dried enough to plant. Generally, if you take a handful of soil and lightly squeeze it in your fist, it shouldn't pack into a hard ball: it should easily fall apart in your hand if prodded a bit. We struggle a bit with this and our clay soil that tends to hold more moisture than more sandy soils, although it has gotten better over the years in our main garden.

2. Check your frost date and plant accordingly.  These can be had by a quick Google search or check with your County Extension Service. Or you can zip over to Victory Seeds and use their Frost Date Selector Page. In my area, we generally plant most things around Mother's Day. Some years a week or so earlier if the weather is nice, but last year we had a lot of rain and planted a lot of stuff a few weeks later.

There are some crops that can handle the cooler weather and if I'd just go out there(and have dry enough soil), I could plant them: these include kale, spinach, peas, some lettuce, radishes and I'm sure there are a few more I am forgetting.

3. For perennials especially, check your zone and see whether what you want to grow will survive your winters. Here is a handy USDA Hardiness Zone Finder for you.

4. Clear out all weeds before planting .You basically want to start with a clean(ish) slate before you begin. Some people (like us) like to till their whole garden before planting: others prefer a no-till method and only disturb soil at the actual planting site. In any case, you don't want any weeds competing with your plants for water and nutrients.

5. Rotate your crops from year to year. There's a reason God told the Israelites to rotate their crops in Old Testament times. ;) Planting the same thing in the same place year to year leads to depleted soil, more bug problems, and less and less production.  I like to plant legumes (beans, peas)in the areas where the previous year I have had other crops planted, because they help add nitrogen to the soil(which is good for the next year's plants).  I have a notebook where I draw a rough sketch of what I have planted where each year, so that the next year I have a better idea of what to plant where this year. You could do it online and get all fancy but it's a lot easier for me to do it sitting out in the yard than inside on the computer. ;)

6. Provide ample space for your crops. I struggle with this every year--especially with tomatoes and squash. Read your little packet and provide enough space for your plants PLUS room enough to walk between rows. It will seem like a mile between plants/rows when you plant but by the middle of the season, you will be glad you left the room! Like I said, I still struggle with this, especially with tomatoes that are indeterminate(as in, they never stop spreading).

7. Mulch, but not with woodchips(because as they break down, they reduce the nitrogen availability in the soil). We personally like to use grass clippings once our plants start to become visible. The grass clippings break down fairly quickly and improve the soil, are comfy to walk on barefoot if I feel the need, help keep the soil moist if it's moist when you put the mulch down, help keep the weeds from going crazy(because the mulch limits the light exposure to the soil and thus helps prevent germination), helps you to not pack the soil when you are walking in the garden, and helps you not to be covered in mud if you need to run to the garden after a good rain and pick some green beans for dinner.

The only time I would pull the mulch away from the plants is if/when  you  have problems with squash bugs or if you have mildew problems. The squash bugs tend to like to hide underneath mulch. If you pull the mulch away from your squash plants, the bugs will have fewer places to  hide and you can get rid of the bugs more easily. (good luck with that!)

8. Fertilize. I don't have any advice about non-organic method of fertilizing, since we use organic methods here. :) We have had good luck in the past with Fish Emulsion, especially on our pepper plants. My husband has also used bone meal and blood meal, depending on what he thought the plants needed at the time.  Last year we made compost tea--yummy(if you're a plant, that is). We also, in the spring/fall, take chicken poo (aged a few months at the very least, lest it "burn" the plants and kill everything) and incorporate it into our garden.

9. Don't overwater/Don't underwater. This is a learning process here. Some crops benefit from being a little dry, others prefer to be more on the wet(but not drenched) side of things.  Basically, if  you can see that your plants are wilting, and it hasn't rained for quite some time--water your garden. ;) But don't water it if it's already wet(push your finger into the soil and feel--if it's wet, you likely don't need to water). Too much water does as much damage as too little water does. It's not an exact science--just listen to your plants.

10. Sit back and enjoy. Pick your veggies(and your flowers, if you choose) and reap the benefits. And share with others. Be satisfied with the fruit of your labors. 

Hope this helps! More to come!

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Allergy Epiphany

I had sort of an allergy epiphany today.....some might roll their eyes at me and shake their heads, but I thought I would share anyway.

Here it is:  after much discussion with a friend on an online board, I have discovered that paprika and pimento ARE members of the nightshade family.

Before you think I am a total dolt, let me show you how I came to different conclusions before.

Back in 2008, when I started my elimination/avoidance diet, I had gotten the scratch test done and was told to avoid the 13 different foods I reacted to and their families. The allergist's office gave me nothing to work off of, so I had to find the information for myself.

Two of my main sources for determining foods and their families are here:
Calgary Allergy Network
Botanical Food Families

BOTH of the above sites show that Paprika and Pimento are members of the Myrtle family(a food family that I could safely eat).

What I neglected to see (or ignore) was that on BOTH of these sites, Paprika and Pimento are BOTH ALSO members of the Nightshade family(a family that I consistently have trouble with, especially tomatoes...).

This is NOT true. But it is extremely confusing trying to find out what is true in doing internet searches. Even , which cites 4+ different "reputable" sources, has rather questionable information and don't differentiate between the very different foods called "pimento"!

From what I gather now, Pimento SPICE, aka Allspice in the U.S. is from the dried fruit(looks sort of like black peppercorns) from a tropical American evergreen tree, Pimenta dioica,  in the Myrtle family.

Red pimentos that are stuffed into olives, according to this site, are indeed from the Nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Ok, so we've got Pimento down. What about Paprika? Why are those listed as being in the Myrtle family on those sites? Hmmmm?

I think someone got their lines crossed or got faulty information and it's just been (unfortunately) reproduced across the internet.   I can see how people would get confused about Paprika, in trying to research it and keep everything straight. Especially when reading on this site about allspice (the spice, not the pimento pepper in the nightshade family) and then reading the sentence: "Allspice is also grown in México, albeit in lesser quality. It is used there for the famous mole sauces (see paprika). "

WHAT? So now I am *really* confused: Do the Mexicans then use allspice(the ground up spice like you would use in apple pie) in their mole sauces, or do they use paprika, the kind of spice that comes from a pepper plant in the Nightshade family? AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

My brain is going to explode.

When I started avoiding all those foods 3 years ago, I *thought* Paprika and Pimento were nightshades and treated them as such....then I read that they weren't(at the two botanical list sites) and started having them off and on. They are not something I have on a regular basis or anything....but MIL does have the green olives with pimentos out about every time we go to their home for dinner...and I have had deviled eggs with pimento sprinkled on top. The last 2 weeks I have suspected the olives might be a culprit for me and I have avoided them...looks like it's a good thing I listened to my body(finally!). I also find it interesting that the mayo that I reacted to not too long ago also has paprika in it....I know the soy was one of the things that I reacted to, but I suspect the paprika too, now that I know it's family of origin...there are SO many condiments that have paprika in them, too!  *sigh*

I wonder if it's eating those olives on a weekly(or so) basis that has sort of held me back in my allergy journey. Something to think about for sure.

I can't believe it took me 3 years to figure this out! Ugh! (Many thanks to my online friend who called me on my wrong assumptions!)

I also learned that there are other foods high in solanine ( present in Nightshades) and am thinking about omitting them from my diet...I need to do some more research on that topic before I decide what to do and if the solanines are something that my body reacts to---blueberries and okra are two of the main foods I remember on the lists... 

So....just to be clear:

Pimento SPICE(as in, Allspice) = Myrtle family

Pimento(as in the red powdered stuff in the spice aisle) = Nightshade
Paprika = Nightshade

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gluten-free, Nightshade-free Observations on Day 23

Here's my observations on my GF/Nightshade-free(pretty much tomatoes and usually peppers) diet.

1. I do feel much better in the gut. I did have a night a few days ago that it was hard to sleep because my belly hurt and I had itching issues...this after eating a little more sugar than usual that day AND eating rice(which I still have had problems with for whatever reason). And two Saturdays ago, I had what was probably red peppers in a bratwurst and that wreaked havoc on my gut as well. But once I got over that, things are feeling better (not sure if it's the gluten absence or not, though, but I do know the nightshade absence is doing my body good).

2. I have been losing some weight. Or maybe it's just the lack of bloating and such. But my pants are not as tight. I wasn't overweight at all before this, but I had some weight still from the last pg and w/o nursing, it was hard trying to lose it. The only thing now is that I get cold more easily...

3. I don't notice that I have spent a lot more on groceries. I am skeptical of the highly processed Gluten-free stuff and am trying to eat only "real food". Today I have a hankering for something....carby. I found this site that has lots of great ideas to do Gluten-Free Easily.

For gut healing, I am using digestive enzymes, taking a probiotic/drinking kefir daily(Kefir is supposed to get into the gut better than yogurt cultures.), and trying to incorporate bone broth into my diet.

I think it's doing my gut a favor not sending the harsh (to me) grains through my already irritated gut. I'm one who, before I figured out the "grains are a problem" thing, had very little trouble with white flour stuff, but the whole grain stuff just did a number on me. I think with leaky gut, all that bran and such is just tearing into the gut and making it worse...leading to more/repeat food allergies. Just my theory. It has been scientifically proven, though, that a damaged gut makes one more prone to developing food allergies.

I'm still not sure gluten is a problem though. I don't have more energy or anything like that, that others who have gone Gluten-free have reported. I think maybe the grains were/are more of an irritant or something to the gut(as in...yes, allergy, but more than that), and maybe once my gut is feeling better, I could probably tolerate them better. At least occasionally.

I am going to continue on the GF/NF thing awhile longer before I intentionally trial the Gluten. My chiro says the benefits are supposed to really show themselves at 3 months of being gluten-free. We'll see. My chiro and I are wondering whether I might be able to tolerate nightshades once I have been gluten-free for 3 months...I think she is planning on muscle testing me at that point for the dreaded tomatoes to see where I stand then. She is sort of thinking that it might all be a gluten-based-damaged-gut thing....and when the gut is re-damaged is when my allergens pop up again(my theory there---I am the only one coming back with reoccuring allergies to treat...).

Our wedding anniversary is coming up, and although we went to Lehman's, we didn't go out for dinner. I am still trying to figure out how to do that Gluten-free. I'm craving some lo-mein(and General Tso's, but that is definitely out due to the nightshade factor...), but not sure if I can get a definitive answer at the Chinese restaurant as to whether they are gluten-free or not...most days it's  just easier to stay home...