Creating a chemical-free life is a core strategy of my healthy living plan. I switched from toxic household cleaners to brands with safer ingredients. I make a lot of cleaners myself. It's one of the practical priorities that helped me recover from fibromyalgia. I know. I know. Fibro is considered an incurable chronic illness. Nevertheless, I persisted, and I recovered anyway.
I have quarry tile floors in my foyer, kitchen, sunroom, and den. I love the natural swirly look of the tile and the feel of walking across smooth stones on a creek bed. I don't love that the floors need heavy-duty cleaning because this area gets a lot of foot traffic.I experimented with various combinations of ingredients and the one I settled on keeps my floors cleaner than any commercial product I have ever used. And it contains just four ingredients: water, white vinegar, liquid soap, and baking soda.
Buy an inexpensive one gallon pitcher with a lid. Fill it half full with warm water. Add 1 Tbs of mild nontoxic liquid dish detergent or Castille liquid soap and 1/2 c baking soda and stir. Add 1/2 c of plain white vinegar. Fizz alert: foaming will occur! I put my pitcher in the laundry room sink while I'm making this so if it bubbles over, no problem. When the foaming subsides,slowly add more warm water to finish filling the pitcher. Stir as you add the rest of the water. Use your favorite mop and just pour a little of the solution on the floor and mop away. My mop has a pump sprayer, a reservoir to add the cleaning solution, and a micro fiber cleaning pad that can be tossed in the washing machine after each use.It is easy to fill the mop reservoir with the solution since my pitcher has a handy pouring spout. .
After you mop the floor with this solution, go over the floor again with a clean damp mop using plain water.Your floors will be sparkling clean and fresh. Sit back and enjoy the view.
I eat a lot of foods with anti-inflammatory nutrients. Research scientists have differing opinions on what causes the severe muscle and joint pain associated with fibromyalgia, but they all agree that widespread inflammation is a significant factor. Reducing the inflammation reduces the pain.
I created this recipe for ginger tea because every ingredient is loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients: tea, gingerroot, lime, cinnamon, and organic honey. When my fibromyalgia pain was still excruciatingly severe, I drank at least three cups a day. Chronic inflammation is a culprit in a whole lot of illnesses including fibromyalgia, almost all autoimmune diseases, and some types of cancer. Even though my fibro symptoms have resolved, I still drink a cup of ginger tea every morning with breakfast to reduce inflammation and stay healthy.
Ginger Tea Recipe
Peel a one to two-inch slice of fresh ginger root.
Use a microplane grater to finely grate 1 to 2 tablespoons of the fresh ginger. Freshly grated ginger is quite spicy. You may want to use 1 teaspoon rather than 1 to 2 tablespoons and gradually increase the amount of ginger a little bit each day until you get used to the taste of freshly grated ginger. If you love spicy flavors and adore ginger, use the larger amount from the get go.
You can make ginger tea in any mug with any type of tea bag or you can use an infuser tea mug and loose-leaf organic tea. Choose your favorite black or green tea.
If you use a regular mug and tea bag, put the grated ginger into the mug.
Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw local honey.
Add the juice from one slice of lime or lemon.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
Wait for the teakettle to whistle.
Fill the mug half full with boiling water.
Stir briskly to thoroughly mix the ingredients and dissolve the ginger.
Add a single serving size tea bag of your favorite black or green tea.
Add hot water to finish filling up the mug.
Steep the tea for 4-8 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea.
Remove the tea bag and enjoy
I prefer making ginger tea using loose-leaf organic tea in an infuser mug that has an inner removable strainer. If you use an infuser mug, follow these steps.
Put the grated ginger and your favorite loose-leaf organic tea into the infuser.
Add a slice of lime or lemon.
Wait for the teakettle to whistle and add hot boiling water.
Steep the tea for 4-8 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.
Remove the inner infuser liner and add the honey and cinnamon.
Stir and enjoy.
You can find loose leaf organic tea at health food stores and organic grocery chains like Earth Fare and Whole Foods Market. It is also available in some supermarkets and big box stores. Infuser mugs can be purchased at kitchen specialty stores and tea shops. If you'd rather shop online, check out this infuser mug available at amazon.com in a rainbow of colors Infuser Tea Mug
I didn't know what on earth was wrong with me. I had a growing list of weird symptoms: severe pain in multiple muscles and joints, debilitating fatigue, muddle-headed thinking, dizziness, nausea, numbness and tingling on the left side of my body, insomnia, and depression. It was almost a relief when the doctor said I had fibromyalgia. I wasn't bonkers. I had a real disease with a real name. The rest of his news wasn't quite as cheering. Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness. An estimated six to ten million people in our country have fibromyalgia. There's no definitive cure.
No cure? So much for the whole sense of relief thing. I spent the next year feeling sorry for myself while I struggled with severe pain and the other horrible symptoms of this illness. Eventually, I got so sick and tired of constantly being sick and tired that I dragged myself out of the recliner, staggered to the study to retrieve the laptop, and propped up on the couch to roam through cyberspace searching for clues. I was too stubborn to let the teeny tiny fact that fibromyalgia has no known cure dampen my determination to find something that could help me feel better.
It was like trying to work a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle without the box top. I had no idea what the finished picture would look like.
I found pieces to the puzzle all over the place.
I created practical priorities for healthy living that helped me move away from chronic illness back to well-being. My top three strategies were to make three specific lifestyle changes.
Super Bowl Sunday is tomorrow. Even if you don’t like football, the party food alone is reason enough to celebrate. This Chicken Fajita Rice Fiesta recipe is just the ticket for game day (or any day when you crave something spicy.) And it won’t block your goal if you are committed to eating real food this year. You don’t need to measure anything. The operative amount you need for throwing this deliciousness together quickly is “some.”
Put some rice in a rice cooker and switch it on to cook while you create the rest of the fiesta feast.
Coarsely chop some vegetables. Choose from green, red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, onions, garlic, white button mushrooms, baby portabellas, and any other veggies you like.
Slice some cooked chicken into bite sized pieces.
Rummage through your spice collection and pick a few: turmeric, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic salt, cumin, cilantro, black pepper, sea salt. Chop up a few handfuls of fresh herbs if you have them. Grab a bottle from your spice rack if you don’t
Peel and slice an avocado or two - or three, whatever
Grab a bag of tortilla chips that contains only three ingredients: corn, oil, salt.
Buy a jar of organic salsa, or at least a brand that isn’t full of chemicals and preservatives.
Arrange possible toppings: black olives, grated cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, and poblanos on a pretty plate.
Cook the vegetables and chicken. It will only take about ten minutes. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet or wok. Crank up the heat to high. When the oil starts to sizzle, toss in the vegetables. Cook and stir for five minutes. Add the cooked sliced chicken. Sprinkle spices over the top to taste. Stir everything until well mixed. Cook and stir for three more minutes. It’s done!
To assemble your fiesta plate:
Put a scoop of cooked rice in the middle of the plate.
Add a spoonful of the cooked vegetables and chicken mixture.
Pour on some salsa.
Pile on your favorite toppings.
Arrange some tortilla chips and avocado on the side.
Dig into the spicy goodness. Olé!
I know from personal experience that this year's flu outbreak is particularly severe. I was busy for several days cleaning up the debris at my house after a fun holiday visit with my extended family so I wasn't around crowds until Sunday, January 14th when I went to church, out to eat, and ran by the store to pick up a few things on the way home. Monday morning, I woke up with fever, headache, sore throat, nausea, all over body aches, cough, and shortness of breath that rapidly worsened during the next 24 hours. Obviously, someone had shared a full viral load of germs with me when I was out and about the previous day. I had the flu. I was so sick that I stayed in bed for a week. By the second week, I was able to stagger into the den and collapse into my recliner. During week three I finally ditched my PJs, got dressed, and did a few things around the house.
Yesterday, I started week four and I still don't have my normal energy level back; but I finally feel well enough to write about this year's version of influenza. Here's what you need to know.
The flu this year is extremely infectious and sneaky. Folks are contagious a full day before they show any symptoms and can remain contagious for over a week after the symptoms improve. So, flu is spreading rapidly everywhere groups of people congregate. The incubation period for coming down with the flu after exposure is usually one to four days.
The strains of flu not covered by this year's flu vaccine are especially severe. Reports are coming in from every state that people across every age group from pediatric patients to senior adults have died from flu related complications.
If you get the flu, there are six things you can do while you are sick.
There are six things you can do prevent the flu from spreading to you and your family.
The flu season typically lasts until March, so there are still two more months to go this year. In addition, the flu usually peaks and then the number of cases gradually decreases. This year's flu has shown no signs either of peaking or decreasing. It is still lurking around out there and may hang around even longer than usual this year. Some epidemiologists warn that there are indications that in the near future flu season may last all year.
One simple thing we can all do to protect ourselves and others from this dangerous virus is to get a flu shot once a year. The vaccine manufacturing process starts the year before each flu season based on the patterns of previous years. Some years the vaccine will be right on target and other years it won’t. Even in those years when the vaccine is not an exact match for every type of flu going around that year, the flu shot can still provide complete protection from some strains and minimize the symptoms from others. I have taken a flu shot every year since they have been available and this is the first year that I have caught the flu.
I hope none of you get the flu. But if you do, take care of yourself and do what you can to keep from spreading it to others. Here's to staying healthy, not only during flu season, but all year long!
Christmas is coming and I love to bake holiday cookies and treats. I also love being free from fibromyalgia symptoms. One of the ways I fight chronic illness is by eating real food instead of processed food full of toxic ingredients. I'm also all about practicality and I can practically guarantee that I'm going to enjoy Christmas goodies during the holidays. So, how do I make my fave family treats without completely wrecking my healthy living plan? I follow three simple strategies for healthier holiday baking.
1. I use real food ingredients.
When I checked my holiday recipe file after making the switch to eating real food, I was shocked at how many of my "from scratch" recipes involved dumping various processed foods together in the mixing bowl. Boxes of cake mix, containers of whipped topping, packaged cookie crumbs, and commercially manufactured candy are not whole natural foods.Once I started reading labels and learned all the ways the things we eat can harm us, I couldn't just ignore the truth that processed food products are often filled with chemical preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, artificial colors, and other ingredients that research studies have linked to numerous health problems including most chronic illnesses and several types of cancer. Baking from scratch is not as difficult as I imagined it might be. Most cookies and treats can be made from simple ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, milk, butter, nuts, and fruit.I know exactly what is in every single thing I make. And I'm much less likely to overindulge when I take the time to make something myself rather than mindlessly grab a prepackaged treat off the shelf.
2. I follow the 90%-10% rule.
I eat real food for at least 90% of my diet. The other 10% allows sufficient space to enjoy holiday goodies at home and at festive events with family and friends. Before I refocused my eating plan, I considered a holiday party plate to be nutritionally balanced if it contained an equal amount of sweet and salty treats. I now know how much harm that can do to my body. So, I stick to my plan, even during this festive time of year. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, drink ginger tea, have protein at every meal, and make something delicious and nutritious for all our holiday gatherings. Eating a few cookies and treats in addition to my regular diet is a different thing altogether than eating treats in place of real food. Folks enjoy having more than cookies and treats at Christmas parties. I've discovered I'm not the only one trying to eat healthier during the holidays.There are a lot of fun ways to plate and present nutritious foods. Need inspiration? Check out this Christmas Fruit Tree and Joy Veggie Plate I found on Pinterest.
3. I reduce the amount of sugar in every recipe.
Nutritionists have widely varying opinions on using sugar. Some say that sugar is fine as long as it is used in something you make yourself from real ingredients instead of in something you buy that is full of artificial ones. Some say that you should never use any sugar at all because it has been linked to increased inflammation in some people. It is not practical for me to eliminate sugar altogether, especially during the Christmas baking season, so, I limit the amount of sugar I eat. I use raw organic sugar, raw organic honey, or real maple syrup instead of refined white sugar. I reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3 to 1/2 in everything I make. And I thoroughly enjoy creating, sharing, and eating sweet Christmas goodies during the holiday season.
I'm looking forward to having four generations of my extended family gathered around my table on Thanksgiving Day. There will be smiles, hugs, long talks, games, and laughter. There will also be so many food allergies that we could do group Public Service Announcements for the National Allergy Board. One or more people in my family has a food allergy or food intolerance to dairy, gluten, beef, nuts, corn, bananas, cinnamon, shellfish, pork, citrus fruits, kiwi, avocados, chocolate, tomatoes, soy, or peanuts. In addition, I'm committed to eating real food as a part of my chemical-free life healthy living plan. It's a good thing I enjoy a challenge!
When I'm cooking for my allergy bunch, I make one entree that everyone can eat and plenty of side dishes so that everyone can choose at least two additional foods. If I tried to make every single dish something that every single person could eat, we would have nothing but a lonely turkey sitting on our holiday table. So, here it is: Thanksgiving dinner for the allergy crowd with clickable links to recipes posted on my blog and Pinterest boards. Happy Thanksgiving!
Real Food Thanksgiving Menu
Roasted Turkey. I fill the cavity with apple slices, onion, garlic and spices and baste with olive oil and everyone can eat it. You can also add slices of oranges, lemons and limes to ramp up the zesty flavor.
Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese. The lactose intolerant folks have to pass on this one but all of my grandchildren adore it.The ingredients can be put in the slow cooker hours ahead of time and it frees up the stove and oven for other dishes. www.kathyknorman.com/blog/real-food-thanksgiving-recipes-slow-cooker-mac-and-cheese
Portuguese Country Bread. My mother got this recipe on a trip to Portugal. It's an easy-peasy homemade bread recipe that can be made ahead, frozen, and warmed just before serving.. www.kathyknorman.com/blog/real-food-thanksgiving-recipes-portuguese-country-bread
Baked Sweet Potatoes. Scrub the potatoes, bake at 400 degrees for about an hour and serve with a choice of toppings that include butter, soy- free dairy-free butter substitute, brown sugar, allspice, and ginger. Time saving tip: Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and cook in the microwave until just beginning to soften and then put them on a cookie sheet and slide into a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They will taste just like they were baked in the oven but take a lot less time and free up the oven for other baking needs.
Roasted Vegetables can be made with just about any vegetables you like. Simply place cut up vegetables on a large rimmed cookie sheet, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and your favorite spices. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until vegetables start to brown around the edges.
Fruit Plate with enough choices that everyone can eat at least two of the fruits.If you are feeling artistic, check out this cute turkey made from fruit that I found on Pinterest. My younger grandchildren had a great time helping me create a Festive Turkey Fruit Platter
Salad Greens with kale, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I put the greens in a large bowl and arrange the other ingredients on a tray so that everyone can make their own.
Chocolate Brownie Almond Pie is so easy and something different to add to the pecan and fruit pies on the dessert table. It doesn't require a crust and it can be made days or weeks ahead of time, frozen, and warmed just before serving.
Creating a Thanksgiving feast for the allergy crowd is a task I"m grateful to tackle. Because spending time with people I love is a gift. And Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to smile and count my blessings. Here's to a chemical-free real food life for all - even at Thanksgiving!
The delicious aroma of freshly baked pies is a must for most families on Thanksgiving Day. If you are looking for a new idea to add to the usual collection of pumpkin, pecan, fruit, and cream pies, try this easy recipe with the texture and taste of a warm chocolate brownie.You can tweak a few ingredients to make this pie dairy free and gluten free to meet any special dietary needs of your friends and family. If you have nut allergies, just omit the nuts and the pie will still be delicious.
Chocolate Brownie Almond Pie
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Melt and stir in a pan over low heat:
1/4 c of coconut oil
1/4 c of butter, or butter substitute if you want a dairy free version
4 T of cocoa. Use a brand that contains 100 % cocoa and nothing else.
In a large mixing bowl beat:
The melted ingredients
2 eggs.Use organic free range eggs if possible.
4 T of unbleached flour. Use rice, coconut, or almond flour to make this pie gluten free.
3/4 c of raw organic sugar
1 tsp.of pure vanilla extract.Use vanilla extract, not vanilla flavoring.
1/8 tsp. of salt
Pour into a 9" greased pie plate.
Sprinkle 1/2 c of coarsely chopped almonds over the top of the pie and press gently into the chocolate layer.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve warm topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
My mother makes wonderful homemade bread every year for our Thanksgiving feast. She went on a trip to Portugal years ago with my aunt and cousin. A delicious rustic bread was served at many of the inns where they stayed while exploring beautiful villages in the countryside.She brought this delightful recipe home with her.
If you have never made a homemade loaf of bread before, this is a great recipe to try for your first time. It contains only a handful of ingredients and it's easy to put together. If you want to have an authentic pioneer type experience, you can do all the kneading by hand. If you prefer techno over retro, you can use a bread machine and a mixer with a dough hook attachment to do all the kneading for you.
You can make this bread days or weeks ahead of time and freeze it. Just slice the bread after the loaf has cooled completely and put it in a freezer safe bag or container. On Thanksgiving Day, take the sliced loaf straight from the freezer, wrap in aluminum foil, and heat for about 15 to 20 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.
Portuguese Country Bread
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3 1/2 c of unbleached flour
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 package of active yeast (about 2 tsp)
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Slowly add 1 c plus 3 T of warm water
Stir to make a firm dough.
Form a ball.
Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.This will take about 15 minutes if you do it by hand. But you don't have to do it by hand. You can use a bread machine set to the dough cycle for this first kneading step. Just add the above ingredients according to your bread machine directions and wait for the dough cycle to finish.
Once the first kneading is complete:
Brush olive oil all over the inside of a large mixing bowl.
Gather up the dough and form into a ball.
Put the ball in the mixing bowl and turn until the dough ball is completely covered in oil.
Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm, draft free space and let it rise until it doubles in size.This will take about an hour.
Punch down the dough.
On a floured surface, knead again until the dough is smooth and elastic.This will only take about five minutes. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you can use it for this step.
Shape the dough ball into a free form long loaf.
Brush a cookie sheet with 1 to 2 T of olive oil until it is lightly coated.
Place the dough loaf on the cookie sheet.
Leave the dough loaf uncovered on the cookie sheet until it doubles in size again. This will take about an hour.
Bake the bread for 15 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Bake the bread an additional 15 to 20 minutes until it is well browned on top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool the bread on a wire rack before slicing.
My grandchildren love macaroni and cheese so I always include it in my Thanksgiving menu. But I stay away from the boxed stuff because processed food contains toxic chemicals I'm trying to avoid to stay healthy.
What's in the box?
Did you know boxed macaroni and cheese often contains sodium tripolyphosphate, an ingredient that is also used to make detergent and soap? Yuk! Some boxed brands contain artificial food dyes and preservatives that have been linked to many diseases. And a recent study revealed that chemicals called phthalates were found in the highly processed powdered cheese used to make the boxed version of this classic meal. Phthalates are industrial chemicals used as solvents in the adhesives and inks on the boxes.They leach into the powdered cheese through the equipment used to make the packaging. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to birth defects.
So, I'll ditch the boxed stuff and go for homemade.I"m all about saving time and making things practical and easy so I'm going to make macaroni and cheese in my slow cooker for Thanksgiving dinner.This will free up the oven for the turkey and the stove top for other side dishes. And I can make it ahead of time, turn on the slow cooker, and forget about it.
Some notes about cheese
Yellow and orange cheeses often have added food colors. Artificial dyes are harmful. Even a natural coloring agent may cause problems. Annato, a red plant extract that comes from achiote shrub seeds, is used to give many types of cheese an orange color. The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology did a study which linked annato to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). So, I look for natural cheeses without artificial colors and I use some kind of white cheese, which contains no color additives at all, for at least half of the cheese called for in the recipe. I buy block cheese and grate it myself. Packaged grated cheese contains cellulose which is commonly made from wood pulp, Cellulose is used to keep the grated cheese pieces from clumping together. It is currently being debated whether this is harmful. But I don't really want to eat wood pulp with my cheese and it only takes a few minutes to grate.
Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
I have a large 6 quart slow cooker. If you have a smaller slow cooker, use only half the amount for each ingredient.
Cook two 12 oz. packages of elbow macaroni according to the directions on the package.
Drain the macaroni.
Rub butter over the inside of your slow cooker. Some folks like to use plastic slow cooker liners. But I'm skeptical about their safety. There's some question as to whether the chemicals used to make the plastic liners leach into the food when the liners are heated. Since I'm trying to avoid chemicals, I skip the liners. Besides, butter adds an extra oomph of richness and flavor.
Dump the drained macaroni into the slow cooker. If this seems to be too much macaroni to fit into your size slow cooker, take some out and save it to use in another recipe. Macaroni salad to go with the leftover turkey! You need to have at least 4" of space left after you put in the macaroni so that you have room to add and mix in the remaining ingredients.
Add 1 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper and a dash of turmeric.
Stir in 4 beaten eggs.
Grate 4 cups of your favorite kind of cheeses. I use a combo of cheddar, mozzarella, and monterey jack.
Stir 3 c of the grated cheese into the macaroni.
Pour enough milk over the macaroni mixture to just cover and stir again.
Sprinkle the remaining 1 c of cheese over the top of the macaroni mixture. Do not stir.
Put the cover on the slow cooker.
Cook on high for four hours.
Go sit down and prop up your feet with a nice cup of hot ginger tea and a good book while it cooks. Hah! Like that's gonna happen on Thanksgiving dinner prep day. But you can just turn it on and forget about it until dinner is ready and that's a big help on this big day. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Real Food Cooking to All!