Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Cleaning--Part III

The kids have Spring Break this week, and the beautiful weather has had us out and about quite a bit.  Muddy hikes, blowing bubbles in the grass with the neighbors, and even sandy beach fun at the ocean have kept us busy.  Technically it's only the second day!  All this gallivanting around has given me a rude awakening one byproduct of such fun.  Disgusting floors!  Yup, it's time to hit the wood and tile.  Here's some recipes to make the job a little easier.

Lemon-Scented Wood Floor Cleaner and Polish

1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp lemon essential oil

Mix ingredients together well, and apply with mop or sponge.  This combination even makes small scratches seem to disappear.  It's magic!

Cedar-Scented Kitchen Cleaner

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp cedar essential oil (Pine also smells great and acts as a disinfectant)

Mix ingredients well, and apply with mop or sponge.  For tough stains, try mixing a few tablespoons of  washing soda into the mix and apply.  Voila!  Floors you can eat off. And believe me, my children will.

Carpet Freshener

5-10 drops of essential oil of choice (Lavender, Rose, Peppermint are all yummy)
5 cups baking soda

Mix well.  Sprinkle on freshly vacuumed carpet and let sit overnight.  Avoid stepping on mixture during treatment.  Vacuum up and inhale deeply!

So don't be scared of the spring and summer fun! You are now armed with all you need to know on how to do damage control after a few days of outdoor adventure. 

Get Messy!

~Kristin Henningsen M.S., R.Y.T.
Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring Cleaning--Part II

 The beautiful sunshine today (and large cup of dark coffee) has inspired me to do some major washing.  The best part of washing all those blankets, rugs, and even curtains is being able to hang them up on the line.  There are few things in this world that beat the smell of line-dried sheets, especially when washed with chemical free detergent.  Unfortunately natural laundry detergents can be pricey!  Here's a few recipes for easy to make, affordable laundry detergent that will leave your wallet and your skin feeling happy.


Lemon Scented Laundry Powder

  • 1/2-4 tablespoons essential oil (Rosemary, Lavender, Orange, and Tea Tree also work great)
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 bar soap

1. Mix oil and borax thoroughly by hand.  A blender also works great, but the oil will
     leave a residue that is hard to clean.
2. Use a grater and shave the bar of soap (I like Dr. Bronners) into fine pieces.
3. Mix above two ingredients with washing soda (available in grocery stores) Note:  
    This is different from Baking Soda!
4. Store in air-tight containers, and use 1-2 tablespoons per load.

Rosemary Stain Pretreatment

  • 1/2-4 tablespoons Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 1 cup dish-washing liquid

1. Combine essential oil with dish-washing liquid in spray bottle
2. Apply to stains on damp fabric and scrub gently.  Allow to set for 20 minutes, then 
    wash in cold water.

*This works great on a number of different stains.  Be sure to use cold water, as hot water sets stains.

Happy washing!

~Kristin Henningsen, M.S., R.Y.T.
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Cleaning

It's started.  My usual spring-cleaning assault on all the dirt, grime, and germs that always seem to take over my house in the winter time.  I'm coming for YOU dirty floors!  Perhaps it's the sunshine (and subsequent Vitamin D) that gives us the energy to freshen up our homes in the Spring.  Maybe it's that awakening we tend to feel as we come out of hibernation, and we finally see some of the dirt and clutter we've been overlooking for months.  It doesn't matter.  If you are feeling the urge to open the windows and put the sheets on the line, then go for it!  Because the temporary inspiration for spring freshness tends to wither with the daffodils.

This week I will be sharing with you some of my favorite natural cleansers out there.  They are inexpensive, easy to make, and actually work.  And you get to have some creative license in your formulas.

 Let's start in my least favorite place to clean. The bathroom.   I do have a 4 year old!  Here it is crucial to have some antibacterial and deep cleaning formulas.

Gentle Scouring Powder

  • 1.5 Cups Baking Soda
  • 4.5 tsp's  Essential Oil Lavender & Rosemary
*Other EO's to try are peppermint, tea tree, or eucalyptus.  Experiment!

Mix essential oil and baking soda well and apply with sponge or scrubber pad. 

Herbal Window/Mirror Wash
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup Herbal Vinegar (see Below for Recipe)

Mix herbal vinegar and water and pour into spray bottle.  Shake well, spray, and polish with clean, dry cloth.

Herbal Vinegar

  • 2 cups dried herb
  • 3.5 cups vinegar

1.Place herbs (Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, or Yarrow are good for cleansers) in clean jar
2.Fill the jar with vinegar (white or Apple Cider work best), making sure all the herbs are covered.
3.Tighten lid and shake the jar
4.Store in cool, dark, place for at least 2 weeks, shaking occasionally
5.Strain and label.
*There are so many uses for herbal vinegar!

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • 1/2 cup Gentle Scouring Powder
  • Herbal Vinegar
1. Sprinkle powder into toilet.
2. Spray with vinegar to make a bubbling paste, and use brush to scour.
*You can also leave the scouring powder in overnight for deep cleaning.

Whew!   Now which room to do next........?

~Kristin Henningsen, M.S., R.Y.T.
Monday, April 9, 2012

The Antioxidant Punch of Popcorn

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty: Health & Wellness & Nutrition Dept

Did you see the news the other week about popcorn? Popcorn was already classified as a whole grain by the USDA but now it turns out that it has a high level of antioxidants too. Before I go any further, remove any wishful thinking you have in your head about ordering the large bucket of popcorn the next time you are at the movies. That isn’t exactly what I am talking about here and to make sure I hit home that point I want to share research completed in 2009 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest on movie popcorn. They found that small popcorn sold at 3 of the top theaters contained from 400 to 700 calories and the large contained from 900 to 1200 calories. Just about all sizes contained a day’s worth of fat or more and were cooked in unhealthy hydrogenated oils http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/nahpopcorn.pdf
 So let’s refocus and zero in on popcorn you can either make at home or buy in the bag that is of the healthier variety.

Researchers at the University of Scranton reported that popcorn contains a hefty dose of a class of antioxidants called “polyphenols” and enough to rival the content found in fruits and vegetables. The reason for the higher content the researchers reasoned is that popcorn contains far less water than fruits and vegetables, making the level of polyphenols more concentrated. For example, popcorn is about 4 percent water compared to fruits and vegetables which are about 90% water. Interestingly, at about the same time that this study was published I read an article on results of a study completed by the International Food Information Council (IFITC) on consumer’s awareness of the function of antioxidants. Unfortunately it turns out that most people really just don’t know what they do http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Market/What-do-antioxidants-do-Absolutely-no-idea-says-IFT-consumer-panel

Antioxidants basically protect our cells and act to counteract the effects of damage done to them by a variety of means including environmental pollutants, a poor diet and even physical activity. Polyphenols are just one of many classes of antioxidants within that group. The hull of popcorn (the part that gets stuck in your teeth) is high in a compound called ferulic acid. Ferulic acid is also found in beans, corn, rice, wheat, barley and other grains and is protective against a host of chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.

But, and there is always a “but” when it comes to science, because the ferulic acid is in the hull which is largely indigestible it isn’t clear whether or not the compound stays in the body long enough to produce much of a health benefit. So before you jump ahead and substitute popcorn in place of your salad, remember that moderation is the name of the game. As I mentioned earlier popcorn is a whole grain and is a good source of fiber so if you currently snack on refined foods like pretzels and chips, think about replacing them some lightly salted, lightly buttered popcorn.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Facts About Fermented Foods

Facts about Fermented Foods
Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty H&W/NS Departments
I read an article the other day in one of my dietetics magazines about fermented foods which reminded me of the tub of miso that has been in my fridge for several years. Yes I did say years and yes surprisingly it is still safe to eat. I am one who takes food safety pretty seriously so you can trust me on that one. Anyway, for me fermented foods held absolutely no appeal when I was growing up as I did in a PA Dutch and Ukrainian family. Think sauerkraut, pickled cauliflower, carrots, green beans, peppers, etc. They look so pretty in the jar and so enticing until you take a bite. Then you realize that it was all a ruse as your mouth puckers at the sour taste. Ick. But of course I am a sucker for anything with health benefits so when I became a vegetarian and started doing my own cooking I discovered another class of fermented foods more to my liking: soy products like miso and tempeh.
It turns out that pickled and fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt and cheese have been around for many, many years. The earliest record of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent and just about every civilization has at least one fermented food in its culinary lineage.  Fermentation was originally developed as a way to preserve foods but interest and research has grown in recent years due to their probiotic content. Home fermentation or lactic acid fermentation is one of the easiest and most common home methods. It is an anaerobic process in which lactic acid bacteria, mainly Lactobacillus, convert sugar to lactic acid which acts as a preservative. Salt is a necessary component as it helps the bacteria to grow which in turn prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. The salt also pulls water and nutrients from the food and adds flavor.
Interestingly I had just been eyeing a package of kimchi at my local Trader Joe’s and debating the pros and cons of trying it. I am one of those people who aren’t very impulsive, so I decided I would mull it over. Then I read the article on fermented foods and wouldn’t you know that kimchi was discussed as one of several fermented foods from Korea. Other examples included Japanese natto (soybeans), Vietnamese ma’m (seafood), Chinese douche (black beans) and Lao pa deek (fish sauce). The article also discussed garri which is fermented cassava root native to West African countries. Because I lived in Sierra Leone, West Africa, the mention of cassava root conjured up a few memories of some of the less than delectable meals I ate while serving there. Guess I didn’t realize how healthy it was at the time and maybe I should have appreciated it more.

In terms of science, research, and health benefits, the bulk of research to date has focused on the probiotics in dairy foods. However, links between other types of fermented foods and health can be traced back as far as ancient Rome and China. Evidence-based reviews indicate that certain strains of probiotics contribute to the microbial balance of the gastrointestinal tract. This is important because our intestines are our first line of defense in our immune system so keeping them healthy can go a long way towards preventing and reducing inflammation of the gut. Inflammation in the intestines can lead to diarrhea, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and even cancer.
As with all things, modernization of our food supply has taken small scale fermentation to large batch production. What this means is that your pickles are produced different so that very little if any beneficial bacteria are present and the number of actual live bacteria in your yogurt may be suspect. So if you seek the health benefits of lacto-fermented foods, check for ones that were produced in small batches and sold in gourmet health foods stores, farmers markets and Asian shops. Or you may want to give home fermentation or pickling a try.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cocoa: The Food of the Gods

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty: Health & Wellness/Nutrition

I grew up in Pennsylvania and one of the highlights of my summers was the annual trip to Hershey Park. The lampposts are topped with Hershey Kiss shaped streetlights and the air in the town is infused with a pleasant chocolate smell. There is a museum/factory where you can take tours and learn all about chocolate but the real fun is the amusement park and the Sooper Dooper Looper!

Funny thing is that I have never been much of a chocolate eater and it is only in recent years that I have added cocoa to my arsenal of nutrient dense foods. I am sure that everyone has heard somewhere from someone that chocolate is “good for you” but what exactly does that mean? How much, what type and really what does it do?

While you might flag this and say “conflict of interest”, Hershey has an entire Center for Health and Nutrition devoted to studying the health benefits of this food. The site is full of great information and is worth a look http://www.hersheys.com/nutrition-professionals/default.aspx For instance, cocoa powder is the end product after much of the fat or cocoa butter is removed, natural cocoa powder has no modifications, and alkalized or “Dutch” cocoa is treated to raise the pH and reduce some of the bitterness.

Research on the health benefits center on the antioxidant compounds in cocoa. Think of antioxidants as substances that counteract damage to your cells caused by environmental pollutants, substances in our food and water, aging, and even exercise. This is where the concept of nutrient density enters the equation again. Food choices that are whole and unprocessed and include fruits, vegetables, teas, beans, and seeds that are rich in antioxidant activity can help to minimize the damage our cells undergo on a day to day basis. While still in their infancy, studies on the compounds in chocolate and cocoa have revealed benefits for the heart, brain, managing blood sugar and decreasing the signs of aging.

Both dark and milk chocolate contain flavanols but dark chocolate has more and white chocolate has none. If you want to add this food to your diet as a way to increase the quality of your nutrient intake, then I would suggest using organic unalkalized cocoa powder and/or cacoa nibs. Cacao nibs are made from crushed beans and are the original chocolate chip. They are crunchy and flavorful. For the organic cocoa I buy NOW brand http://www.nowfoods.com/Foods/real-food/Products/M074399.htm as they list the actual flavanol content. Nativas Naturals is a brand of the nibs that can be found at Whole Foods http://www.navitasnaturals.com/products/cacao/cacao-nibs.html

So the next question is: how much cocoa is needed to provide health benefits? Most studies used much more than you would want to add to your diet so there are no clear guidelines as of yet. And don’t get confused by the recommendation to add cocoa flavanols to your diet and translate that into “eat more chocolate.” Chocolate is high in saturated fat, sugar and calories. To reap the health benefits of the flavanols stick to unprocessed cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened unprocessed dark chocolate and cacao nibs.

Here are some suggestions for adding this nutrient rich food to your diet:
·        Add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder to your recovery smoothie
·        Add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder to your favorite black bean soup recipe
·        Add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder or nibs to hot cereals
·        Add ¼ cup cocoa powder to pancake batter or muffin batter
·        Get out of your recipe rut and try a recipe for mole – chocolate is a key ingredient
·        Stir a tablespoon cocoa powder or cacao nibs into your yogurt
·        Add cacao nibs to salads, trail mix, anywhere you would use chocolate chips

This Easter why not treat yourself to this luscious recovery smoothie:

2 Tbs organic cocoa powder
1 cup frozen cherries (also full of antioxidants)
1 scoop protein powder or 1 cup high protein yogurt like Greek yogurt
1 cup low-fat chocolate dairy or soy milk

Enjoy adding this nutritious food to up the quality of your diet!

Coconut Flour - What is it and what can you do with it?!

by Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D., CHES

I’ve been using a lot of coconut flour lately, so I thought I’d talk about why I like it. Basically, it is made of dried ground up coconut meat.
Coconut flour is:
  • high fiber (around 60%!!) – this makes it a little tricky because it needs a lot of moisture to “work” in recipes. For example, the chocolate cake recipe required 10 eggs! At first, this seems like a negative…but why? Eggs are cheap and nutritious!
  • gluten and grain free
  • hypoallergenic
  • low carb and high protein (compared to other flours)
  • usually off-white in color, although I’ve noticed different brands have slightly different textures and colors (I’ve tried Coconut Secret, Wilderness Family Naturals, and Bob’s Red Mill—they’re all good!)
  • not full of flavor, but some people think it has a mild coconut flavor—I don’t notice this
Here's one recipe idea:

Coconut Flour Flatbread
In a bowl, mix together the following:
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of sea salt
1/4 cup any kind of milk
*you can add herbs to the bread if you like.

Stir until there are no lumps. Let it sit for a minute (the batter will get a little fluffier). Melt a tablespoon or two of butter (Ideally, pastured, organic, local!) in the pan, and pour two small sandwich sized “pancakes” into your pan (on just under medium heat). It will only spread just a little bit. When the tops start to bubble just a little and the bottom is brown, flip them both over. Put the cheese and other sandwich contents on one slice, and then put the second flatbread on top with the un-done side up. Flip when the bottom is brown, and continue cooking till the cheese is melted and the flatbread is done! This recipe makes 4 small-sized sandwich flatbreads. You can eat them all, or you can save 2 for later and toast them!
You can add anything you'd like on a sandwich--one of my favorites is mozzarella and pesto!

This flatbread is not crunchy like regular bread when made into grilled cheese. It has a great flavor and wonderful bread-y texture. It gets more and more crispy as you add more butter (so I recommend being liberal with it!).

Many recipes will call for just subbing in coconut flour for part of the flour requirement, and at first I considered doing this with the flatbread. In the past, I’ve made waffles with coconut flour, and they were kind of rubbery (all that fiber!). But, I just made sure to keep the ratio of eggs to flour high in the flatbread, and also fluffed it up a bit with the baking soda and baking powder.

Have you ever baked or cooked with coconut flour?
Sunday, April 1, 2012

Which is right for you: Smoothies or Juice (or both!)?

by Lisa K. Beach, Ph.D., CHES

As a continuation of my previous post, I decided to post examples of considerations for how to choose smoothies or juice:
  • If you hate vegetables – start with smoothies because you probably need more fiber, and you can hide veggie tastes easily!
  • If you are constipated – start with either one, but if your constipation is extreme, you may want to choose juice with aloe vera included (adding more fiber to concrete in your intestines can be disastrous and make the problem worse). If constipation is mild to moderate, you can probably get things moving with a high fiber smoothie (adding aloe works here too)
  • If you want to do a cleanse or detox – consider starting with a “juice till lunch” or “juice till dinner” approach. The longer you put off digestion during the day, the more your body can work on detox—the key is to include things like: parsley, cilantro, dark leafies. If you feel you’ll have a LOT of detoxing to do (how polluted are you?!), you may want to do green smoothies—add parsley, cilantro, chia, dark leafies. This will slow the circulation of toxins because your body is balancing its tasks of detoxing and digestion, and the high fiber and gel (chia) content will trap toxins and carry them out (rather than risking recirculation).
  • If you have skin problems – start with juice and a detox approach, but have smoothies too—the point with this one is that the ingredients are most important. Consider adding MSM, aloe, watercress, onion (!), peppers (unless you’re sensitive to nightshades), lots of greens (all the detox ingredients), and only minimal fruit/sugar. Consider using stevia to sweeten.
  • If you want to lose weight – either one, just make sure you keep your caloric intake in mind—if you’re worried about not being full, stick with smoothies. Always keep fruit content low, but consider adding healthy fats and proteins and use it as a meal substitution.
  • If you’re drinking it before a workout – juice!
  • If you’re drinking it after a workout – smoothie with high quality protein powder (my current fave is whole goat milk protein—whey content helps repair muscle, and casein content helps preserve muscle)
  • If you’re drinking it in the morning with breakfast – smoothie (the idea being that you want nutrients to fill you up–it will take space away from your cereal and other less nutritious breakfast foods)
  • If you’re drinking it in the morning as breakfast – juice (you may be hungry for the first couple days, but it’s only out of habit–in a few days you’ll have more energy than ever!)
Those are just the considerations I thought of now. If you think of others, please ask!
Of course, you can always incorporate both smoothies and juices into your diet, and I've even heard of people juicing and using it as a base for smoothies----talk about micronutrients!

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