You Want Me to Eat What?!

If those words didn’t actually come out of hubby’s mouth, the look on his face has said all that and more a time or two.

I am something of a self-professed health geek.  While many spend their waking hours reading through current events’ articles, I wade through health and fitness stories, much less stressful but no less confusing.  After much experimentation over the years, hubby has accepted my geekiness and actually believes I might be doing a thing or two to keep him healthy, when he’s not thinking I am trying to do him in (haha)!  Actually, he now embraces most everything I put in front of him that I insist is edible. 😉

My new favorite cookbook 🙂

I try not to buy into the latest fads, especially when it comes to swallowing yet another supplement, but instead try to get nutrients from whole foods. Some of what I embrace today I have experimented with since my 20’s, but in a much less controlled environment.  It’s a wonder I am still here to tell about it.  What I am referring to is fermentation and, if you believe what some of the literature has to say about it, fermented foods can be very good for gut health.  It makes sense to me that good gut health is essential to our overall health.  If we have tummy issues after eating certain foods; if we can’t absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat; if we have inflammation and/or have been diagnosed with a leaky gut, we may be looking at future health issues if we don’t address them.

Even if you don’t believe there is any connection between good gut flora and a healthy body and mind, some of the fermented foods you can purchase or make are actually pretty darn tasty.  Word of caution, however.  If you have complex digestive issues, such as histamine intolerance, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), or an overabundance of candida in your digestive tract, ferments may not be in your best interest (oh darn).  Thankfully we have none of those issues, nor has hubby tried to convince me that he has. So, upon our return to So. Cal, my kitchen counter has once again begun to look like a science experiment. Here is just a little of what I have whipped up lately:

If you are interested in learning more about ferments, check out Kirsten and Christopher Shockey’s YouTube videos here.  Their cookbook, “Fermented Vegetables:  Creative Recipes…” is a good one to get you started.  Or if you enjoy delving into medical articles like me, here is an interesting one from Pub Med which speaks to the benefits of fermentation.

I think my next experiment will be flavored kombuchas.  Hannah Crum (aka Kombucha Mamma), has an interesting read I am eyeing for my bookshelf.   These new recipes look more appealing than that grayish-looking water I used to drink in my 20’s.  What was I thinking?!

Next Up:  Foraging in Yellowstone National Park

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‘No Poo’ Not For Me

I’ve tried, really I have, but ‘no poo’ is just not for me.  Right about now you are probably wondering if I have suddenly become addled or reverted back to “toddler-speak”.  I had read about this on the Technomadia blog site and for those of you not familiar with the no-poo hair cleansing, it’s a very simple two ingredient alternative to the cancer-laden shampoos many of us have used for years.  Apple cider vinegar and baking soda, two of my favorites, can get your hair squeaky clean. With my quest to be more “natural”, I wanted this to work for me but alas, it just doesn’t do the trick.  As I was reading a post from Wellness Mama, she said something that struck a chord with me.  She can’t use the ‘no poo’ method either as she has baby-fine hair, as I do.  She offered up an alternative and, voilà, it works for me.  So, for any of you wanting to try something more “natural” (free of chemicals), you might want to check this out or perhaps go ‘no poo’:

A More Natural Shampoo

  • 1/4 c. coconut milk
  • 1/3 c. liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1/2 t. (several capsules) of vitamin E oil (for a preservative)
  • 20-30 drops of essential oil (peppermint, lavender, rosemary, sweet orange, or a combination)
  • For dry hair, add 1/2 t. olive or almond oil (optional)
Combine all ingredients in an old shampoo bottle or jar.  Shake well to mix.  Keep in shower for up to a month, shaking before each use.  Use ~ 1-2 t. each time you shampoo.

There will be no photos of me to prove that it works.  You will just have to trust me on this one.   I have never been one to have luxurious flowing locks and don’t see that in my future either (sigh).

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That Amazing White Powder

No, this is not a pitch for some illicit drug.  By now you should have me figured out.  I’m the fanatic searching for all things healthy and “natural”.  That amazing white powder I’m referring to is none other than baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate.

amazing white powder
That amazing white powder

While growing up the only use I was aware of for baking soda was to add to cakes and cookies to make sure those sugary treats rose properly.  As I grew older, I discovered how easy it was to substitute baking soda, vinegar and liquid Castille soap for most harsh cleaning products being mass-produced today.  Baking soda’s list of cleaning benefits are extensive, from scrubbing porcelain, chrome and tile, to eliminating odors in the frig and cleaning your oven.

Other benefits, used under a doctor’s care, are treating colds, flu, sore throats, bladder infections, heartburn and indigestion, kidney stone treatment, to name just a few.  There have been a host of books written on baking soda uses, as well as a plethora of websites touting its benefits.

Healthy homemade deodorant

Always on the hunt for more “natural” products (and I use that term loosely as it has many meanings, depending on who is using it), I came upon a recipe for healthy homemade deodorant that costs pennies to make and has very few ingredients.  And guess what, I can pronounce each and every one of them.  I used a recipe that includes baking soda, coconut oil (yet another use for this great oil), arrowroot powder (very much like cornstarch and can be purchased at a Whole Foods store or the like), and essential oil.  I like both lemongrass or calendula for my deodorant.  I had used Tom’s deodorant at $5-6 a pop and liked it but who doesn’t want to save money.  It took me just a few minutes to make and a little goes a long way.  Bear in mind that it’s runnier than the solids you might buy at the store so just rub a little in and you’re good to go.  And no, I’m not walkin’ around stinkin’ up the place either!  Seriously, this is one of those products where I believe it pays to spend a little more for something healthy (something without aluminum), given studies done on how aluminum is linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s; or make your own with clean ingredients.   Gotta love how easy it is!

Another product that I have gone out of my way to spend more money on is toothpaste.  Be very scared when you start reading the ingredient list off of many brands of toothpaste, if you can find more than a cryptic list at all.  Here again, you can make your own healthier version for pennies, even doing as little as brushing with baking soda alone, or you could do something more like this.  I love the clean feel of my teeth after brushing!

Having heard on the news the other night that on average a person is exposed to 120 chemicals (oh my) each day by way of swallowing or absorbing through the skin, I am convinced that a more natural approach is healthier and, that amazing white powder, baking soda, sure is tops on the list for clean livin’!

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A More Natural Way

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; 
to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest 
or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. 
~ John Burroughs, Naturalist 

I believe many of us are looking to live our lives in a simpler, healthier, more natural way, given how toxic our world has become.  But what does it mean to be natural?  Like so many things intended for good, the word ‘natural’ has been bastardized by the food industry and cosmetic companies.  It is so confusing to read labels and know whether something is good for us.  Many  products are labeled natural but are chock-full of chemicals that can harm our health and that of our environment.  Look here for a listing of harmful chemicals found in many of our cosmetics.  For me, I try to live a more ‘natural’ life by following this definition of natural:  made from organic material, not synthetic; following or resembling nature.  This is easier said than done.

When we started this RV life, I worried that I would not be able to sustain this lifestyle (living naturally), which has been a passion of mine for some time.  I thought it might be difficult to find healthy products, not knowing the lay of the land where we would be parking our home on wheels. It has proven to be easier than I had thought.  Farmers’ markets abound and being retired has allowed me even more time to research and prepare healthier versions of recipes and make many of my own products.

Cleaning products are pretty straightforward to make so I decided to tackle a bigger project; see if I could make healthier and less expensive versions of some of the lotions and potions I buy.  Having been one of those people who thought the more expensive the cosmetic the better (sooo not true), I poured a lot of money into products that did not benefit me one bit and most likely harmed me, given the ingredients in them.  This is proving to be an interesting project, one that is ongoing.

I love products that can find a home on my pantry shelf or in a bathroom cabinet. Coconut oil is one of those products that you would find in my kitchen and bath and it has so many healthy uses.  I buy USDA organic coconut oil at health-food stores, which runs me around $8.00 for 14 ounces.  Not bad considering its many uses and what I have been able to cast aside since discovering this amazing oil.

Coconut oil has some great internal and external properties, such as:

  • antiviral
  • antibacterial
  • antimicrobial
  • anti-aging
  • anti-dandruff
  • easily absorbed into the skin
  • high moisture-retaining ability

It appears that many companies are now getting on the coconut oil bandwagon, purporting other benefits which I won’t even address here as some seem a little far-fetched.

Here’s just a few of this yummy-smelling oil’s many uses:

  • day and night moisturizer
  • hair conditioner
  • body lotion
  • add a spoonful to smoothies
  • cook with it
Coconut oil is a solid at room temps but will quickly melt when rubbed between your hands.  If using as a body lotion, I will work what is left on my hands into my hair, which gives my hair some needed moisture and makes it smell great!
I make my vitamin C serum and after applying this morning and night (along with sunscreen in the morning), I add a light layer of coconut oil, which absorbs well into my skin.
For a more luscious lotion, you might want to try this recipe for body butter, which I found here.  NOTE:  I halved the recipe and used avocado oil instead of almond oil, along with 36 drops of lemongrass essential oil – absolutely heavenly!
a more natural body butter
Just replacing my moisturizer and lotions with coconut oil, I have reduced my carbon footprint by keeping a lot of plastic jars and packaging out of the landfill; reduced my toxic load by getting rid of products loaded with chemicals; taken advantage of all the benefits derived from coconut oil, saved lots of money, and I smell pretty darn good too, if I do say so myself!
I will leave you with this scrumptious vegetarian recipe using coconut oil:

Heavenly Quinoa Hash

  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 2 c. water
  • ¼ t. sea salt
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ t. ginger, minced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 red potatoes, cooked and diced
  • ¼ c. minced parsley
  • 3 T. coconut oil
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Rinse quinoa; place in pan with water and salt and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until done (~15-20 min).
  3. Sauté onion in coconut oil until translucent.
  4. Add garlic and red pepper and sauté until tender.
  5. Add potatoes, ginger and parsley and sauté for a few minutes.
  6. Fold in cooked quinoa & heat through.
  7. Add sea salt to taste and enjoy!
I give coconut oil a big thumbs-up, given its many healthy benefits and uses.  So tell me, what do you do to live in a more natural way?
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