Remedy Testing and a Super Easy Treat

I don’t know what’s going on in your neck of the woods, but here in Central Maryland it seems like EVERYONE is sick. Flu is rampant. Adenovirus is on the loose. Stomach bugs abound. It is a minefield out there. Good thing it’s a least a quiet, stay at home time of year…. yeah. We got hit weeks ago and while everyone else is done, Momma has been sick for over 2 weeks now. I knew it wasn’t the flu, because the fever and aches never got THAT bad, so I avoided the doctor’s office so I wouldn’t get the flu while there…. And I proceeded to try to prepare for and do the whole Christmas thing…

I cut out a bunch of stuff I normally do. I asked people to bring food to events I usually cook for. I let my husband send me off to bed a few times. BUT with all that, I probably didn’t do enough to take care and protect myself. So this thing has dragged on and on, and anytime I thought it was getting better, a new sign of unwellness would erupt. I began to do some searches… if I don’t want to go to the doc and get antibiotics to change the color of the gunk coming out of my head and lungs (sorry, TMI), what can I do to change that color? If I’ve had so much honey for my cough that I feel like I’m going to toss, but still need an expectorant, what can I do? If I’m supposed to sing at church and my throat hurts and sounds scratchy, what can I do?  If I am not up to making Christmas cookies with my kids but they really, really really want to make them, what can I do? I’ll start with the remedies and end with a super easy and marginally healthy sweet treat.

Please understand that I am not a medical professional and that my N=1 study of natural remedies does not constitute science. I’m just sharing what has helped me so you can give it a go if your doctor’s office is flooded with flu patients as well. Please do seek professional medical attention if you need it.

Problem #1:  Respiratory Infection

I think it’s likely that my cough became an infection. Again I say this because of the color of the junk my poor tired body was producing. In desperation, I turned to turmeric, specifically turmeric and honey… huh? I used this recipe after a friend pointed it out to me and I read why it might be a good idea. It seems turmeric can be a super great natural antibiotic. I mixed about 3 ounces of raw honey with a TABLESPOON of turmeric. Yes, you need to use that much, and yes, it will taste nasty. Sorry. I like turmeric, but wow. That’s a whole lot. The protocol is for three days: first day 1/2 t every hour (I do NOT wake myself for medicine because sleep is more important, IMO); second and third days 1/2 every 2 hours. This wiped out my whole supply and during the second day everything coming out of me turned clear and I felt like I’d made more progress in healing that I had in over a week. Nicely done turmeric.

Problem #2: Junk Stuck in the Lungs

It’s wretched to cough and cough and cough. It’s even worse to do it and not have it do what your lungs need it to do. I had exhausted my tolerance for honey, and while it helped, I wondered if I couldn’t do better. A quick search showed that I could indeed get a better response without having to keep tasting so much honey. I gave this recipe for a homemade decongestant and expectorant to the test. I took the first dose and about an hour later noticed that my nose was more clear than it had been for over a week. I also noticed that I was still coughing, but not so violently and always bringing stuff up – sorry, gross I know, but necessary when it’s stuck in there. VERY impressed with this little number.

Problem #3: Scratchy Throat

This one came from my pal, a nurse and singer. Sounds like a good combo when you’re looking for throat relief, right? This one is super simple and is very similar to the master cleanse drink, if you’ve ever done that. I squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into a large mug, add about 2 t honey (more honey, oy), and a shake of cayenne pepper. Add boiling water to fill the mug or travel cup if you’re planning to go sing somewhere. This magical potion restored my singing voice very quickly. Another great one to keep in the files.

Problem #4: Disappointed Cookie Makers

Ironically the problem here is not so much that we wouldn’t have cookies. I’d already given up the idea of handing out treats to neighbors, and we just don’t go through treats very quickly. During one of the last days of school before the holidays, I donned plastic gloves and made my awesome Crancherry White Chocolate Cookies. I chose these because they are gluten free, so our first set of guests (Bigg Sis, Mr. Bigg Sis, and child of Bigg Sis) could eat them sans consequence. They are not, I discovered, my daughter’s favorite. Shocker. I discovered in talking to here, that what she wanted was to make cookies with me. She was craving the ritual and the joy of us creating a Christmas treat together. So I did some quick thinking. I needed to give her the experience without it taking a long time so I could get some more rest and/or do 1 of approximately 8,000 more chores before people started to show up. I bought whole wheat pretzel rods. I bought dark chocolate chips. Yeah, you know where I’m going.

I melted the chips in the microwave (try to contain your horror, desperate times people). I set the timer for just a couple of minutes and put it at half power. You should know that sometimes the chips hold their shape even though they are melted. You should stir them after a couple of minutes to see if they are actually melted. Err on the side of less time – burnt chocolate is a tragedy.

So we stirred the melted chocolate to melt the last few little bits. Then grabbed a pretzel rod each, dipped it in the chocolate and swirled the end around a bit, then held it up so that the chocolate would work it’s way down the rod. It is not necessary to coat the whole rod for these to taste amazing. Lay them on wax paper on a tray to cool. Wait until they are completely cooled to remove them. Remove to a storage container if you can keep the wolves in your house from eating them all. This was a HUGE hit. It was messy fun that landed us with chocolate on our hands that the kids were more than happy to lick off when done. Took us about half an hour and we made plenty to share. DEFINITELY a great quick treat trick, and a nice time spent with my kids, even if it wasn’t really cooking. 😉

I hope your holiday has been healthy, peaceful, and soul satisfying. If you’re ill, know I’m thinking about you and urging you to take better care of yourself than I have. If you’re in that New Year’s Resolution making place, check out our E-Book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals, for some help with cleaning up your eating habits and filling your life with delicious real food. Eat well, be well friends.

Almond Joy Brownies (GF, DF…. OMG included)

I’ve been a baking slacker lately.  This only poses a real problem for my kids’ expectation for a “treat” in their lunches.  Mind you my lunchbox treats tend to be less sweet than anybody else’s, but it seems that it’s more important that there be something treat-like in there than that the treat in question be of any particular kind.  So up to now, I’ve been pretty good about doing just enough baking to keep them supplied with a steady stream of reasonably healthy “treats.”

A few weeks ago I started slipping ’em low sugar graham crackers – really pretty harmless and something they enjoy.  No problem.  After a while of that they requested something else – anything else (and who can blame them).  I found myself wandering through the prepared treats aisle reading packages of corn syrup laden white flour options as though I had never once baked in my own kitchen.  I practically forgot that I used to spend a few minutes just about every weekend assembling a treat that would satisfy both the kids and me.  I would bake for our customary Sunday dessert and then serve the rest throughout the week in small lunch sized portions. When I brought home cookies previously deemed pretty wholesome without even reading the label, ate one and felt a film in my mouth and had to stop because it was too sweet to enjoy, I knew I’d hit the proverbial bottom.  Which is great, because it led me to spending a little time today making my new favorite dessert, Almond Joy Brownies.

Almond Joy Brownies

The Brownie – adapted from Sarah at Gazing In’s Sweet Potato Fudgy Brownies

  • 1/4 c coconut oilIMG_0199
  • 2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao if you’re feeling spendy
  • 1 c gluten free rolled oats blitzed in food processor until flour like
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c coconut sugar
  • 2/3 c sweet potato puree (baked sweet potato in food processor with enough water to create baby foodish consistency – add water SLOWLY so as not to overshoot)
  • 1 T ground flax meal + 3 T water (AKA flax egg)
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla

Preheat Oven to 350. Melt coconut oil and add cocoa, stirring to create smooth, silky chocolate that you should not eat. Combine oat flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Combine coconut sugar, sweet potato puree, flax egg and vanilla in medium or larger bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add chocolate.  Stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients (if you’re still holding a whisk, now is the time to switch to a spoon, unless you’re trying to create an “Oh no, I have so much brownie batter stuck in my whisk, however will I get it off…. slurp” kind of scenario.  Not that I’ve ever done that. Add a handful or so of your favorite chocolate chips.

Scoop into oiled square baking dish.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Look for typical brownie crackling on top and a slightly firm feel in the middle of the pan (that second test is only for those of us in the asbestos fingers crowd). You can try the toothpick test, but these are fudgy, and will not likely come out totally clean. So just look for not wet, mostly clean.  Remove and allow to cool in the pan.

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The Topping

  • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 16 whole raw almonds

Place coconut in food processor.  Turn on and let it run, run, run.  You’re going to let it go so long that the coconut is going to turn into a liquid.  You’ll want to stop it occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl so all of the coconut gets transformed into superific coconut butter.  When the contents of the bowl are shiny, let it run a couple more minutes and then place in a container you can put a lid on so you can save the leftover and put it on your toast, in your oatmeal…. yes, the options are mind-boggling..

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The You Got Your Coconut On My Brownies Moment

So when the brownies have cooled a little (you don’t have to let them cool completely), spread the coconut butter on top in whatever amount makes sense to you.  I tried to show a little restraint because I wanted to chocolate flavor to prevail.  If your coconut butter has hardened, gently warm it a little to soften.  Place almonds on top – I did a one whole almond per brownie ratio, to get that crunch that I used to love in the Almond Joy, but I think chopped almonds would make for a nice effect as well.

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I don’t think I even need to tell you that these were great – what’s not to love? Super dark chocolate flavor, coconut creaminess and that wholesome crunchy almond.  Delish.  And now I’m ready for those lunch boxes for real.

Did She Say Chickpeas AND Chocolate?! (GF,V)

We’ve had quite a week here at Lake HolyCrap.  The twins started first grade on Monday and our search for a new furry friend reached its final, and extremely happy conclusion.  While the kids were at their second day of school, Mr. Little Sis and I responded to the call from a lovely woman who runs an animal rescue about a half an hour from us.  She thought we might be just the people for Baxter, an adult labradoodle mix.  We jumped in the car immediately and it’s been love ever since.

IMG_9838Baxter rode home with me yesterday and I had my first experience using a mobile groomer (for the dog, mind you).  I didn’t want to traumatize him by taking him somewhere else or leaving him for a couple of hours, so I found the nicest groomer who pulled into our driveway with a trailer that had everything she needed to get rid of our new friend’s matted dreadlocks and leave him much more comfortable and very, very handsome.  What’s a nervous new dog Mommy to do while a stranger is tending to her new charge in the driveway? Bake, of course. Continue reading

Celebration Krispies

So what I didn’t tell you when we discussed Bigg Sis’ birthday bash is that summer is high holla time for birthdays for this family. While my kids are winter babies, a huge portion of my extended family has summer birthdays. Between May and June we have a whole lotta celebrating going on – and it picks up again late in July and stretches all the way through August. Heck, we’re just celebrating all the time. Truth is, as I’ve revealed before, sometimes I get a little celebration overload. I am NOT super great at saying no to yummy stuff, so when celebrations start piling up, I usually start piling on. And more importantly I just feel weighed down and kind of oogie.

The last two months went a bit like this: a few weeks after my husband’s birthday, we had the start of summer vacation including Bigg Sis’ birthday celebration. The weekend after we got back we celebrated our 14th anniversary. This was followed in no time by about 15 end of school year events, celebrations, weird meals because of special events, the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL blowout, Father’s Day and then… my birthday. I was kind of done. Not done celebrating, just kind of done eating for a while. So instead of a traditional cake I decided I wanted something a little lighter, a little more just like a treat, and a little more no-bake on a hot summer day. I turned to my friend Dreena Burton and she had answers for me (she must really love me). Continue reading

Blogiversary Cookies.. and a Giveaway

It has been a whole year. I absolutely cannot believe it. Bigg Sis and I had been talking about doing some writing together and it dawned on us that there was a way to get started, like right away. And so we dove in, and wrote post after post, but I don’t think that we had any idea that, unlike putting a book or a series of articles out there, the space of the blog was going to be one that was going to give so much to us. That we would develop relationships with other bloggers, that our own dietary choices would continue to evolve because of the amazing real food community we’ve stumbled into. I’m a little overwhelmed. I’m not kidding.

I have been deeply gratified by the comments we’ve gotten that essentially tell us that we’ve made a difference for someone. It’s like karmic payday. I have been delighted and surprised by the support I’ve received and the way I’ve been stretched as a cook, as a writer, and as a Mom. I feel lucky, and together Bigg Sis and I wanted to be sure that you know how much we appreciate you. Those who show up every time; those who pop in and comment, and all of you lurkers. We appreciate you and hope that we give you some small piece of what you all give to us.

In the vein of giving back, we’d like to offer everyone a blogiversary cookie, and for one lucky reader, a blogiversary book. But which to do first? Me, I’d go for the cookie, but I’ve seen what happens on these here internets, and I’m betting you’d like to know about the giveaway…. Continue reading

When You DO Need a Treat

I struggle with the treat area.  There, I said it.  My kids have been the fortunate recipients of mostly unprocessed or only lightly processed snack foods, but I have, in my forty some-odd years on the planet, consumed a fair number of packaged snack foods.  The difficulty that this poses for me as a parent is that I am vulnerable to the argument that perhaps I am being TOO restrictive, that I am depriving my kids (OH NOOOOOO, ANYTHING BUT DEPRIVING YOUR KIDS!!!!) of some sort of necessary and later to be romanticized pleasure of childhood.  So I struggle to find balance.  They don’t get A LOT of the things that their classmates and friends get, but I attempt to frame it, as I do with myself, as a turn toward the abundance and delicious satisfaction that real food, even as snack or treat, can provide.

Healthful twin lunches. Healthy twin kids.

My recent efforts, as a reflection of my desire to keep my kids on the attitude of gratitude end of the spectrum as regards their lunchtime totage, have focused on the treat portion of our little stainless steel container.  As it turns out, packing lunch has been something of a guilty pleasure for me.  The picky child in our family takes her Tinkerbell lunchbox everyday with the utmost trust that I have included SOMETHING that she will eat.  And I generally do.  And the funny thing is, she eats it.  She eats most parts of whatever I pack.  She eats things she won’t eat at home, and when she gets home, she finishes whatever’s left…. hot diggity.  So I have no guilt about providing a small not so sweet in their tins.  I have made two lovely discoveries this week that I thought I would share… one that is gluten (but not chocolate) free, and one that has gluten, but is vegan, and I must say, quite awesome.  I’m eating some right now as I type.  On to the goodness…

What do you mean what happened to the first row? What first row?

First up: Gluten Free Blondies – adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Chip Blondies. These babies are BEAN based; that’s right, you heard me, bean based.  So I’m thinking I need to whip up a lunchbox yummy and looking at my fridge to see what I should use up and rolling my eyes at the container of white beans from the previous night’s dinner… turns out they were just what I needed.  I love it when that happens.

See those little beanies in there?

The changes I made to Katie’s recipe here are pretty minimal.  I cut the sugar to 1/2 c from 3/4 c.  For the grain I used a mixture of flax and rolled oats. I added 1T of applesauce because my batter seemed too dry (I used homecooked rather than canned beans).  I went a little light on the chips to no ill effect and I added 1/4 c of pecans. The procedure is super easy. Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients with the exception of chips and nuts (if you use them, which you should) in a food processor until the batter is smooth. Add chips and nuts and stir to incorporate. Place in 8×8 greased or lined baking pan. Bake for around 30 minutes. They will be softer than your average blondie – sort of fudge-y and awesome. If you’re smart enough to eat one warm, you’ll get the reward of the melty chip drip that is part of the blondie experience. Delish.

Turns out beans weren’t the only thing I needed to use up. With the onset of the school year (and cooler temps), our green smoothie intake has diminished and my banana purchases got ahead of me. Super over-ripe bananas can only mean one thing in my house… banana bread. Oh yes. This recipe is adapted from one I got from a dear friend who first made it for us during a delicious fall weekend on a farm in the Catskills. She had adapted the recipe from one she’d had given to her by someone else… Honestly neither one of us has any idea at this point where it originally came from. On the off chance that it was yours and you still recognize it, let me know and I’ll credit you.

I was encouraged to limit my pecans so we could try it “both ways.”

Intensely Good Banana Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup regular oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 2 large eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/4 c peanut (or other nut) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecans for the top

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Place sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add eggs, banana, nut butter, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Decorate with pecans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Eat some while it is warm and the outer crust is at its peak. Cool completely on wire rack before storing.  Amazing.

Need more ideas for healthier sweets?  Try these gluten free chocolate chip cookies, these gluten free coconut almond milk mash cookies, honey milk balls, apple oat muffins.

This week we’ve joined Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Blog Carnival. Check out the other real food entries here.