Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Millions of Peaches...

By: Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Gosh I love summer. It is by far my favorite season.  The sunshine, warm weather and abundance of fruits and vegetables makes my little heart sing. This morning I went to the farmer’s market and soaked in the glory of what summer represents. Abundance! Life! Family! Happiness! Good health! I was so caught up in the moment that I bought a full case of dead ripe peaches – which is 40 big peaches! 40 peaches for me and my husband to eat… clearly I was a little delusional thinking that we could eat that many so quickly.  But peach cobbler, peach pie and peach salad is happily in my near future.  Have you all basked in the glory of real, live, dead ripe produce lately? If you haven’t, find a farmer’s market or a roadside stand and eat a real, fresh peach – straight from the orchard.  You will fall in love with summer again and maybe even healthy eating. J

In case you find yourself with a case of peaches. Try this peach and green bean salad – you won’t regret it!

Peach and Green Bean Salad – from Saveur



½ cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. firm-ripe yellow peaches, sliced
1 tbsp. finely chopped oregano
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 lb. green beans, trimmed


1. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until slightly caramelized, 7-10 minutes. Stir in peaches and oregano; cook until peaches are soft, 5-7 minutes. Whisk remaining oil with vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; add onion and peaches and set aside.

2. Bring a 6-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil; add beans and cook until crisp-tender, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water until chilled. Drain and add to peach mixture; toss to combine.

Emily Boldrin PhD, RD

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keeping Cool

Picture As we come into the last month of summer, things have been heating up.  Don't get me wrong, it's been a beautiful summer.  It's rare in my part of Texas to not have hit triple digits yet.  Nevertheless, in order to get outside and enjoy these last days of summer it's important to avoid over heating.  Here's a few hints to help your family do just that.

1. Peppermint Mist:
   Take a spray bottle and fill with water and 10   
   drops of peppermint essential oil.  Shake 
   vigorously, spray, and feel  

2. Smoothies:
    My family LOVES smoothies.  Any kind will do.  Find a recipe that your family loves.  Blend 
    yogurt, frozen or fresh fruit, ice (optional), and any other herb or other flavoring you like. 

3. Frozen Tea Pops
    One of my friends passed on the idea of freezing peppermint tea into Popsicles.  Genius!  I have
    since been experimenting with a wide variety of cooling herbs.  Lemon Balm, Chamomile, and
    Lavender have been my favorites so far.  You can mix in a little honey before pouring into 
    Popsicle  molds if you like.  Added bonus: Lemon balm helps hot grumpy kids turn into little 
    angels again!

4. Eat Cooling Foods
    Cucumbers and Watermelon cool me all the way down to my toes.  I can literally feel the
    sensation.  Find those foods that do that for you.  Yogurt? Melons? Citrus?  Try them all.  And
    under no circumstances are you allowed to turn on the oven.

5. Siesta!
      That's right.  Take a nap.  During the hottest part of the day, put a peppermint or lavender tea
      soaked frozen washcloth on your forehead and lay down.  I know it's not always practical
      but even if it is for 2 minutes, it gives your body a chance to recharge and cool down.

Stay Cool,
Kristin Henningsen MS, CH, RYT
Monday, July 28, 2014

Herbal First Aid

You know it's summer when your kids knees are full of scrapes and bruises.  It's bound to happen during this time of activity and adventure.  In my humble opinion, first aid kits are one of the most important items to pack for long trips, day hikes, or general outings.  Okay, I don't *pack* one for general outings, but I do keep one handy in the car and my backpack.  You just don't know when you're going to need it.  This, combined with the ability of a first aid kit to calm a scared and hurt child down, makes it invaluable!  Kids have a fascination with first aid kits.  The band-aids, the medical tape, the tiny tins of salve.  Who wouldn't be?

If you want to treat those boo-boos naturally, then assembling an herbal first aid kit is the way to go.  It's easy, inexpensive, and they make great gifts.  Here's a list of what I put in my own kits, but feel free to adjust yours for your own families needs.

1. The Basics
    -Natural Bug Spray (See recipe below)
    -Protein Bar
    -Emergen-C: These vitamin packets are a great way to keep your nutrients up when
             traveling.  Add the powder to water and you have a great way to re-hydrate
             after a long hike, boost your immunity, and shorten illness.

2. The Meds
    -Tea bags:  I always include peppermint tea bags for digestive issues,    
                 chamomile tea bags to calm nerves (internally) and pink eye or burns (cooled
                 and applied externally).  Traditional Medicinals also makes a great line of
                 medicinal teas for a variety of issues.  Great to have on hand!

    -All Purpose Salve:  Look for a salve that contains comfrey, St. John's Wort, calendula,
                or plantain.  Apply to cuts, scrapes,  & bug bites to disinfect, sooth, and
                accelerate healing.  Also great for dry, cracked skin.

    -Tea Tree Essential Oil: Another great disinfectant!  Use sparingly on infected cuts to
                       speed healing.  Also great to sniff to ease nausea, and apply
                       externally to get rid of parasites. 

    -Lavender Hydrosol: Lavender flower water with fully emulsified essential oil.  This is an
                   excellent spray that can soothe burns, rashes, ease anxiety, and
                    induce sleep.  Also works as a great "monster spray!"

    -Echinacea Tincture: A must have!  This works as an internal and external antibiotic, boosts
                  the immune system, and has even been used an an antidote to poison!

    -Homeopathic Arnica:  These little pills work wonders!  Take to ease muscle soreness,
                      heal bruises, ease arthritis pain, and ease headaches.

    -Rescue Remedy:  Made from flower essences, this is a great tonic to ease trauma and
                stress.  Also great way to relieve anxiety.  Just a few drops under the

3. The Hardware
    -Assortment of Band-Aids
    -Bandages, gauze, and surgical tape
    -Duct Tape
    -Cold Pack
    -Hot Pack
    -Ear Plugs
    -Sewing Kit

Carry these items in a waterproof bag or case, and you will be well prepared for any injury that comes your way.

Go have an adventure!
Kristin Henningsen M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Healthy Travel Tips for the Whole Family

Summertime is usually synonymous with travel time.  In fact, for the past month I've been traveling around the country, kids in tow.  Traveling with little ones can be pretty stressful to say the least.  Trying to travel in a healthy and mindful way can be even more stressful, unless you plan ahead.  Along with healthy snacks, herbal products can be a great way to stay healthy during your excursions, and help keep you sane. 

My suitcase usually includes items to calm the kids, entertain them, and keep them healthy.  Here's a list of some of my favorite healthy & herb related goodies to pack for the kids.

1.  Snacks!  Hungry kids = whiny kids, so I try to plan ahead and pack some healthy snacks.  Our families favorites include the usual carrot sticks, apples, & non-sugary granola bars, but we also try to mix it up by baking crackers with dill, basil, or rosemary, packing dried fruit and nut mixes with herbal spices, or hearty whole grain muffins with lavender or elder berries.  Be sure to pack a water bottle and you're set.

2. Herbal tea bags and Emergen-C- Herbal tea bags are great for making calming or nourishing teas, but cooled chamomile tea bags can even be used for pink-eye or healing owies.  In case you're not familiar with them, Emergen-C packets are a great blend of vitamins in powdered form.  When added to water can be a delicious and nutritious drink for the kids.  I usually give the kids a 1/2 packet each.

3. Herbal First Aid Kit-more on contents of this in the next post.

4. Herbal Eye-pillow- These are really easy to make (see Fill them with calmative herbs such as lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm to ease little ones to sleep, even in unfamiliar places. 

5. Lavender "Monster" Spray.  Put a few drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle with 8 oz of water, add a tablespoon of witch hazel and voila!  A calming spray that can be used for everything from keeping monsters away to encouraging rest.

6. Regional Medicinal Plant Field Guide.- Hours of entertainment!  Kids love to page through the pretty pictures, and you can make a game out of identifying plants as you go into new places, even playing plant quiz games. 

7. Art Bags-I've filled each of my kids art bags with a felt roll filled with markers, pencils, and pens. See on how to make one yourself.  Then, I put in a journal (for drawing, pressing plants, writing poems about the sun, etc.), coloring books, and other goodies like a magnifying glass, cool stickers, or old postcards with pretty pictures.  Encouraging creativity can be a fun escape for the kids and you!

It sounds like a lot, but honestly all this stuff packs down small.  And really, wouldn't you trade that extra pair of shoes to skip the in-flight temper tantrum? 

Safe Travels,
Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.
Friday, July 18, 2014

For the Love of Horses

My daughter expressed an interest in riding horses at a young age.  We signed her up for riding lessons and summer day camps for several years before buying her a horse to keep on our farm.  Before owning a horse, we did some research, but….  Needless to say, owning a horse is completely different from riding one at lessons!  Long story short, we now have two horses and both my daughter and I take lessons – both English and Western.

I have learned that riding horses is truly a sport.  It requires skill, strength, and mental knowledge.  Some might have experience riding a trail horse at a vacation resort, where the horse does all the work.  Training a horse to ride dressage, jump, or western pleasure is a completely different experience!  The rider must maintain balance, correct form, and use a different set of muscles than is used in most fitness activities.

The health and mental benefits of riding horses are many.  Here are just a few:

1.  Physical fitness – riding horses is a physical exercise that builds muscles and burns calories.
2.  Improved balance and coordination – core muscles are strengthened while riding horses, as is your ability to balance.
3.  Build Knowledge – there is much to be learned in the horse world, including a whole new vocabulary!
4.  Reduce Stress – most riders form an emotional bond with their horses and find their stress level decreases during equine activities.

Riding horses can be fun an as individual activity, but it is safer and more enjoyable in a group!  Most areas have local riding clubs.  A quick search online might help you find someone in your area that offers individual or group lessons.   Whatever your physical activities might include, be sure to find new challenges to keep it fresh!

Valerie J Connor, MA CCC-SLP

Donegal Equestrian Centre (n.d.).  Benefits of horse riding.  Retrieved from
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Essential Oils - What's the Buzz?

It seems that you can’t talk about an ailment without someone suggesting the use of essential oils.  Last week I posted something on Facebook about my pierced ears itching and swelling.  A few friends suggested I use certain essential oils to reduce the symptoms.  What exactly are these essential oils? 

I have toyed with some essential oil samples given to me by a friend and have even purchased a few after successfully using them.  To learn more, I picked up a copy of “The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Wormwood.   Ms. Wormwood provides a nice background on the historic use of essential oils, as well as a comprehensive overview of common ailments and recommended oils.  Essential oils, in short, “are extracted from certain varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, and flowers” (p.6).  The oil is most concentrated in certain parts of the plant.  Some are easier to extract than others.  For example, the oil is quite abundant in a lavender plant (220 pounds will provide 7 lbs of oil) and lavender plants are relatively easy to grow.  Sandalwood oil, on the other hand, can only be taken from a tree that is 30 years old and 30 feet high.  This might take a little longer.

The oils can be used in a variety of ways.  The most common methods are topical and aromatic.  For example, some people might apply lavender oil to insect bites or dry skin.  Other people might use the peppermint fragrance to relieve headaches.  Some oils have been mixed and sold as bug repellants.  Others use the oils to make their own cleaning products.

The essential oil industry has grown in popularity because it is a natural alternative.  While medications will always have a purpose, some people prefer to try natural remedies before turning to chemical ones.  Back to my ear example: the use of frankincense (a natural anti-inflammatory) helped me reduce the swelling in my pierced ears.  Turns out I am allergic to most metals, so that switch also needed to take place before they returned to normal.  Other oils that help reduce inflammation have helped relieve symptoms of arthritis that I am having, as well.

Before trying any essential oil, you should certainly do your own research and consult your physician, if you have any concerns.  You know your own body best! 

Valerie J Connor, MA CCC-SLP
Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watermelon- The Versatile Summer Fruit

By Jeanette Andrade, MS, RD, LDN

Summer is in full swing and if you live in the mid-west you have likely taken part of the traditional summer foods- hot dogs, brats, corn on the cob, and watermelon. In this episode, I will be discussing the delectable, sweet fruit - watermelon. As a child watermelon has been the summer fruit of my choice. I would literally eat a whole watermelon in one day and look for another one the next day. I can no longer eat a whole watermelon by myself, but I can certainly eat a large piece. Watermelon is great to eat as a side dish, snack, or as a meal as it is low in calories and contains several nutrients.
I know several of you will be shocked when I mention watermelon has antioxidants (as that appears to be the go to word I use all the time when describing these foods) such as lycopene. Here is a fun fact- the US population gets the majority of their lycopene from eating watermelon than from eating any other type of fresh fruit (George Mateljan Foundation, 2014).
Watermelon also contains an amino acid citrulline that when consumed will convert into another amino acid arginine. Arginine has been shown to improve blood flow and is beneficial for cardiovascular health (George Mateljan Foundation, 2014). As you can likely guess watermelon also contains vitamin C, this nutrient has also been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Many B-vitamins and potassium are found in watermelon, so even though this fruit is low in calories, it packs a powerful punch in each serving. The typical serving size for watermelon is 1.5 cups cut or 1/16 cut of a watermelon = 85 calories, 0.4 grams of total fat, and 22 grams of total carbohydrates (CalorieKing, 2014). 

So how about using watermelon to make a nice, fresh salsa?
The recipe is from All Recipes (2014) and makes 2 cups:

2 cups seeded and coarsely chopped watermelon
2 tablespoons chopped onion
3 tablespoons seeded, chopped Anaheim chile
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon garlic sauce

In a serving bowl, mix together the watermelon, onion, and chile pepper. Season with balsamic vinegar and garlic salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to blend flavors.

Per 2 tablespoons: 8 calories, 0 grams total fat, 2 grams total carbohydrates, 0.2 grams total protein (2014). Watermelon Salsa. Retrieved on

CalorieKing (2014). How Many Calories in Watermelon, Raw? Retrieved from

George Mateljan Foundation (2014). Watermelon. Retrieved from
Friday, July 11, 2014


By Jeanette Andrade, MS, RD, LDN

I want to dedicate this blog post to my NS325: Nutrition across the Human Life Cycle class as they had provided me with the idea to write about avocados. We were discussing about good, healthy fats a pregnant female could eat and avocados were mentioned. It just was not the word avocados that were mentioned, but also great recipe ideas and uses of them. So, I would like to share with you all about this wonderful delectable fruit that had led to a deep discussion in our class.

When someone mentions avocados what do you think about? The yummy guacamole found at your favorite Latin American restaurant? The fresh avocado placed on your tuna salad sandwich? The little bits of avocado mixed with beef fajitas? Or do you think about the health benefits of avocados? Well, if you are anything like me, you are likely thinking about the health benefits of avocados. 

Many know avocados contain monounsaturated fats or the good kind of fat that may reduce heart disease risk, but did you know since avocados are fruits they contain that power word- antioxidants? The particular antioxidants found in avocados are lycopene and beta carotene. Now, you may be quite surprised that avocados contain these particular antioxidants as they are typically known to be in red and orange vegetables and fruits like carrots and tomatoes, but these are also found in green fruits and vegetables as well. The highest concentration of these antioxidants are actually found right underneath the skin of the avocado, so be careful when peeling this delectable fruit (George Mateljan Foundation, 2014). Aside from healthy fats and antioxidants, avocados also contain many other nutrients such as folate and vitamin B6, potassium, and vitamins C and K (George Mateljan Foundation, 2014). So, what is the serving size of this fruit to ensure you get in the max nutrients? ½ of a medium fruit will provide you with 140 calories, 13 grams of total fat, and 8 grams of total carbohydrates (Calorie Count, 2014):

If you are looking for a new way to use an avocado, check out this Avocado Mac & Cheese recipe from Avocados from Mexico:

Serves 4-6 people


1 pound elbow pasta

1-1.5 cups skim milk

3 small garlic cloves

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

2 fully ripened Avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced (about 2 cups), divided

5 ounces reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, cut in ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ cup chopped chives



In large sauce pot, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine milk, garlic, nutmeg and chili powder. Bring to a boil; reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes. When pasta is almost cooked, place in blender the parsley leaves, 1-1/2 cups of the diced avocado, the cheese, lime juice and hot milk with garlic cloves; whirl until smooth. Drain pasta and return to sauce pot. Pour cheese sauce over pasta; toss to combine. Add chives and remaining 1/2 cup diced avocado; toss gently. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Preparation and cooking time is about 15 minutes. Best when served the day of preparation.
Use linguine in place of elbow macaroni and add sautéed bay scallops; use rotini (spiral shape) in place of elbow macaroni and add steamed shrimp; add spring vegetables to basic recipe.

Per 1 cup serving size: 365 calories, 15 grams protein, 12 grams total fat, 49 grams total carbohydrates

Avocados from Mexico. Avocado Mac and Cheese. Retrieved from

Calorie Count (2014). Calories in Avocado. Retrieved from

George Mateljan Foundation (2014). Avocados. Retrieved from

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