How to Grow, Use, and Keep Fresh Herbs

Herbs are so heavenly.  Not only are they filled with nutrition to lower cholesterol and improve circulation and immunity, they give everything a taste of fresh summer.  A bite of excitement.  A perk to the senses.

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If you aren’t used to having fresh herbs in your food, it may take a little bit to get used to.  One might be more accustomed to mint in their tea than mint in their salad!  Just start small and add more as you go.

Try cilantro on top of Asian, Indian, or Mexican food.

Parsley is nice atop savory dishes.

Basil and Oregano, of course, are the king and queen of Italian food.

Thyme is delightful baked on top of squash halves and potatoes.  Same with rosemary.

Soups adore to be simmered with dried herbs then topped with croutons and fresh herbs.

Rice with mint or couscous or in salad is refreshing.  A mixture of herbs even better.

How to Grow

In the summer, herbs grow wonderfully in the garden.  In the winter, one might want to start some in a window sill.  The plastic containers used to hold washed salad from the store are great for starting plants.  Fill 3/4 of the way with potting oil and dampen.  Sprinkle seeds on top.  Sprinkle a light amount of soil on top.  Spray with a water bottle and put lid on.  Set in sunny spot.  Use water bottle to keep seeds from drying out.  The lid does create a greenhouse effect.  Don’t overwater or the seeds will mold!  If the top soil is getting dry, give it a good spritz.  When seedlings are an inch or so tall, remove lid and continue to grow delicious herbs!

How to Chiffonade

This is the best way to chop herbs.  For leafy herbs, roll several leaves together into a small log then starting at the end slice them into small ribbons.  Smaller herbs can be minced.

How to Store

The best way to keep fresh herbs, whether harvested or store bought, is to keep them in water like a nice bouquet of flowers.  My basil actually grew roots after four weeks!  But usually fresh herbs will last about a week to ten days.  Cilantro likes to be in water in the refrigerator.  They lose their oils over time so do attempt to use them as soon as you can.

A New Food History (the Garden Food Movement!)

20170917_154719Why is it so hard to eat healthy?  I often have wondered this.  I believe it is because as Americans we do not have our own food culture.  If we were from India we would crave curries and lentils and coconut.  If we were Japanese we would crave the tastes of sea weed and fresh vegetables.  We would crave the tastes of our genetic history, of fresh, local produce.  For someone like me, whose family has been in this country for over four hundred years (seriously, according to Ancestry.com no one in my family has come over since the 1700’s!) I have McDonalds and meatloaf to hold dear.  Monsanto lives here.  If it doesn’t have artificial flavors then it isn’t savory or sustaining enough.  It is just bland.  We crave the tastes of our youth!  American tacos, and steak, and canned vegetables!  Just kidding, I never crave canned vegetables.  But I can tell you that the folks that frequent the farmers markets have no clue what vegetables are local.

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Sure, we have regional specialties; fried chicken in the south, and clam chowder in the east, and we have adopted the cuisines of every other nation.  But we haven’t a clue about our own food history because a lot of times folks were just starving.  People of the world just started eating every animal in sight.  We have a genetic disposition for fear of starving or not having enough.

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People that come to America are always surprised at what our serving sizes look like.  One meal at a restaurant could feed a whole family!

That is why it is hard to eat healthy.  We don’t know what that looks like.

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We don’t have our own food history.  We have let big companies take over our food system.  But can we rewire our brains to crave certain foods?  Is it too late to simplify our palates?  I wonder.

It seems to me that a plate full of whole grains; farro, buckwheat, rice, barley, rye, topped with in-season vegetables of varying colors, and topped with a savory sauce of some sort; tomato based or smoked cashew or asian or red chile, would be amazing at every meal.  Inevitably we start craving restaurant food.  It is never as good as what we make at home yet there must be artificial ingredients and flavorings that our bodies crave.  Like it’s the taste of home, or something.

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The gardening season is coming up and I intend to retrain our taste buds!  We are now on a rather strict budget (time to practice what I preach) and we will not be gallivanting around restaurants anymore.  Eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, seeds, legumes, and nuts help us to avoid the more expensive, processed, nutritionally deplete foods and save A LOT on the grocery bill.  Pastas (homemade or not), homemade sourdough, whole grains, fresh, sauteed, or roasted vegetables from the gardens or market, fresh fruits, roasted nuts as toppings for meals, or made into sauces, or eaten as snacks, seeds added to delicious, crisp salads, and beans and other legumes seasoned and added to meals.  We will create our own food history.  The Garden Food Movement!  Not a diet, but a lifestyle.  The new food history of America.  One household at a time…

All of the above dishes are plant based.  It’s time we take back our health and our food.

5 Reasons to Adopt a Plant Based Diet

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1- There is not a disease out there that can not be benefited, if not reversed entirely, by adopting a plant based diet.  Plants are medicine.  They contain every healing property needed to heal from cancer, diabetes, bone loss, dementia, heart problems, or colds.  That is what they were made for!  So in my work as a Clinical Herbalist when people are asking which medicine herbs to take, I always mention that they need to incorporate more plants into their diets too.  Kale and Broccoli can reverse bone loss.  Tomatoes and garlic heal the heart and wine relaxes the blood vessels.  Walnuts heal the brain and fresh greens remove built up mucous that inhibits memory.  There are thousands of food combinations and every single nutrient one needs is located in fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and vegetables.

The more meat or processed foods one puts on their plate, the less room there is for the plants.  By adopting a plant based diet one gets all of the nutrients, none of the disease.

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2- Saves Money and Time!  We actually cut our grocery bill in half by eating a plant based diet.  In half!  This week I shopped at King Soopers and bought a week’s worth of groceries-all organic- for a hundred bucks.  (Kuddos to King Soopers for hearing the need and desires for more organic!)  Instead of an hour in the kitchen, I spend thirty minutes preparing a meal.

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3- More Eco-friendly– We are all a little freaked out by our own lusts for oil and gas and the impacts we as a cumulative society are making on this beautiful planet of ours that sustains us and nurtures us.  We purchase more fuel efficient cars and try to remember to turn the lights off but the one huge impact that one person could make is to adopt a plant based diet.  After all this time after the reports came out many years ago, our mainstream meat production is still the number one cause of greenhouse gases and pollution, the loss of species and rainforests, and the reason that so many pollutants get into our water ways.

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4- Animals and Karma– Let’s face it, when it comes to creating suffering, none of us really want to make an animal suffer.  (There really is no difference between a horse, cat, cow, dog, pig…) Yet we tell ourselves that it’s the circle of life, the cavemen did it, or it’s healthier, and we continue to eat ten times more meat than our ancestors ever did, create so much suffering by being a consumer, and then wonder why our bodies begin to rebel and fall apart.

My brother-in-law lives and teaches in Thailand and I asked him when he was here visiting, “What is it like there?  What wild animals do you have there?”

He replied, “There are no wild animals.  The people ate them all a long time ago.”

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5- It’s Fun!– I think I heard some of y’all choke out there. It is fun!  I love cooking and creating and it is fun to cook through a new cookbook.  It is fun to see what flavor combinations can be had.  We cook together and as we chop and laugh and sauté and pour a drink, we talk about our day, alter seasonings, and eat really, really healthy food.

We were vegetarian/vegan for a long time.  When we stopped we both started seeing just what eating meat does.  Gout, weight gain, back problems, hormone disruptions, circulatory issues….It is nice feeding my husband foods that will nurture and heal him, give him energy and well being.  It is nice feeding myself those foods as well.  I know I am doing my part to help the animal kingdom whom I adore, and am lowering my footprint on this little homestead.  I am saving money and making amazing, delicious foods.  There are so many beautiful books out there.  My new favorite is “The Homemade Vegan Pantry” by the magnificent Miyoko Schinner.  We have been cooking our way through it this week.  I highly recommend it.  I don’t want processed food in my plant based journey, so this helps me in seconds whip up delicious substitutes.

After years of experimenting here is my favorite plant based milk recipe:

Cashew Milk– Place 1 cup of cashews with 4 cups of filtered water in blender and blend until completely smooth and frothy.  No need to strain!  It should be completely blended and smooth enough to go through the cappuccino machine or into your cereal.

It’s a bright new year, here’s to your health and your karma!

Three Autumn Medicinal Herbs to Harvest Now

20170929_113435This year I was able to harvest over thirty different medicinal herbs from my gardens.  There are three of them right now that would serve you well for the winter if you can find them, and if not, plant some next year!

20170929_114035The first one is Burdock.  There are three kinds of docks; yellow dock that grows in the marshes and on the sides of roads.  Curly dock is the same, it loves willow trees.  I have some popping up in my yard unexpectedly.  Then there is burdock.  They will all work the same.  Burdock has those annoying round burrs.  I harvested mine before their growth.  I planted seeds in the spring and had a beautiful crop.  The roots won’t let you pull them completely which assures that you will have some more next year.  Perennials are a beautiful thing and this perennial could save your life.

Docks have pretty amazing blood cleansing abilities.  They are used to detoxify the body and to kill cancer.  Their long tap roots are eaten in many cultures.  Just chop them up like carrots or parsnips.  They are also available in the health food store at times in the produce section.

The leaves of the burdock are green which tells us that it is specific to organs as well.  They are very nutritious and will make a lovely tea to help cleanse the liver, gallbladder, and kidneys as well as the entire lymphatic system.  I dried mine in a large box because they were so huge.

You can add both leaves and roots to a canning jar with rum, vodka, brandy, etc. and let brew for four weeks but don’t strain it as you want it as strong as possible.  Put one teaspoon in a shot glass of orange juice to take in the mornings as an immunity booster and preventative.  Enjoy the tea with other green herbs like mint and lemon verbena.

20171017_171507Rose Hips contain the highest amount of Vitamin C of any fruit and are specific to Arthritis and as an anti-inflammatory.  They contain anthocyanins for heart health and the prevention of cancers.  We harvested a lot of roses off of nearly-hundred-year old bushes during the year.  I always leave some of the roses.  One, they look beautiful, and two, they will produce hips which contain their seeds and are a delicious fruit.  These can be dried in paper bags and used in extracts or teas.  Or for fun they make a lovely jelly or liqueur.  They take down swelling quickly and taste delicious.

The third medicinal plant is the humble onion.  The onion contains over 150 phytochemicals, quercetin (anti-inflammatory and pain reliever), and saponin (soap to help clean the organs and blood) and is anti-viral, anti-biotic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-yeast, and kills the flu quick.  Forget chicken soup, if the household is coming down with colds or flu make French onion soup with lots of onions and garlic!

These three autumn plants will keep you healthy, strong, and feeling your best to take on the winter days ahead.

If you prefer to use plant medicines already made you can do so by ordering from my website http://whitewolfherbs.com.  My daughter and I handcraft powerful medicines that we know will work!  You can find the burdock in our Detox and rose hips in our Arthritis.  Thanks for supporting traditional herbalists!

A Great Farming Book and Why Every One of Us Needs a Garden

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With very little work I am still pulling out baskets of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, squash, and greens from the gardens.  The nights are getting cool enough that tonight I will need to bring in the houseplants.  Crickets still sing for summer as I write.  These gardens have been such a lovely respite.  They didn’t cost much to start or maintain and if I did have more money for amendments it would have been even more prolific.  Each year the soil will get better and better with techniques I have learned over the years from organic gardening and permaculture.  I am still learning.

A garden is not just a hobby.  It is one of the most fundamentally important things we ought to be doing.  To provide really fresh, nutritious food without chemicals and without the oil needed to produce, package, and ship our food from across the world is imperative to the health of our beautiful earth, and in a time of epidemic chronic disease, imperative for our own health too.

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Miraculous Abundance; One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer is a lovely guide filled with inspiration and ideas.  By simply focusing our energies on the soil and improving it we then let nature grow all of the food.  We are the helpers, not the geniuses behind food production!

The author states, “If we want to live sustainably on this planet, a growing number of people will have to reconnect with the land and produce food for themselves and the community….But the farmers of tomorrow will not come from the agricultural class that has been reduced to near extinction; they will come from the cities, offices, shops, factories, and more….Their farms will be places of healing, of beauty, and of harmony.”  The farms will be in front yards, in the country, on balconies; we will have to find a way to feed all of us because the current food model is killing us and killing the earth.  Period.

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Our yard in the city is the equivalent of four city lots, or just under a third of an acre.  We have utilized very little of it this year and are still producing all of our own produce for our week’s meals plus some for canning.  I have purchased the rest of the vegetables for putting up from local farmers, thereby boosting my local economy and putting food up for our winter meals.  I have chickens for eggs in the city and just purchased a goat share so that I can get plenty of fresh milk to drink and make cheese and other dairy products.  I trade classes or spend my grocery money on fresh meat from my friends that are ranchers.  Now I just need to get staples.  I save money, eat better, and support my local friends and farmers.  This is the model that we may all have to follow sooner or later.  Unsustainable systems are doomed to fail, and Honey, if you look at our food and medical systems….better plant some comfrey and Oregon grape root while you’re at it.

But we can do this!  We can support each other and help each other with knowledge and tool sharing, with friendship and bartering.  What can you plant next year?

 

Compassion For Even the Smallest

 

tinyTiny Timothina had a bad day.  When we returned from our show last night we thought she was dead.  The other chicks were running over her.  Her wing and one leg were stretched out.  “Mama, I think we lost the runt,” Doug said sadly.  We saw her move though and there was life and hope.

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She was smaller than the other chicks and just wasn’t thriving.  We put her in her own small box with mini bowls of food and water and turned the light on her.  The next morning she was still alive though still laying on her side.  I put her in my shirt and rocked her as I had my coffee and checked emails.

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When we came home from our show tonight she was laying in her water dish and not well.  I held her again until she died.

That happens, it is hit or miss with chicks.  They are hatched then shipped all over the nation within twenty-four hours and sometimes for no reason we find that the chick (or grown chicken) has died of Sudden Chickie Death Syndrome (we made that up, don’t google it).

Each and every animal that comes through our farms is precious to us.  A live spirit.  A soul that came from the same universal energy source we did.  Their life is important.  Many an experienced farmer might just throw the chick away or put them in another box and walk away.  But we have brought many a chick back from the brink of death.  Ginger was practically decapitated when we found her, various chicks brought back by sitting on my lap watching television lived long lives.

So, do not give up hope on your weakened animals.  They may die, but you can hold them as their spirit is released.  We send love to each and every creature we have the honor of being around.  And this returns to us.

The Home Practice

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This is not a photo of me. I am usually in pajamas doing yoga with my cats.

I was always the last one to be chosen for a team.  It was disappointing for kids to see my height and seemingly athletic limbs then to witness my ability.  I can dance, that is about it.  I get a stomach cramp running, hurt my wrist weight lifting, daydream enough to get hit by a ball, and couldn’t catch one to save my life.  I do notice though that if I do not do any exercise my back starts to hurt, I am more fatigued, and long intervals between workouts cause any good work I did to unravel.

I am brilliant at creating ideas and medicines and magic but having so many ideas at the same time does tend to make me flighty.  A personality trait I doubt will leave me.  I need a workout that will keep me focused.  I also need a workout that I can tailor if my old knee injury or sciatica flares up, or the nerve damage in my toe from ballet kicks in, or I slept wrong and my neck is out of whack.  I also do not need to compare myself to fit twenty year olds.  I also don’t particularly like leaving the house if I don’t have to.  So, the very best practice for me (and I don’t wonder for you too) is a home practice.

We know exercise is absolutely imperative to cardiovascular, lymphatic, and skeletal health.  Hormones are improved, mood is improved, and a good booty are all reasons to get our cute selves into the living room!

I am a huge advocate of yoga.  There are many types of yoga and lots of videos that can be checked out a week at a time from the library.  I love all types of yoga.  I never feel like I want a serious, back breaking, sweat inducing workout.  Yoga makes me focus so I don’t fall on my head, effectively clearing my mind and making me feel calm, but I also get a much better workout than I think I am because I like the feel of stretching, dance motions, and the feeling that I am connected to nature though movement.  I stand up straighter, feel stronger, and am more flexible.

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This is me, I would LOVE to be able to do yoga on a beach each day. I guess the back yard works too.

Yoga also encourages you to slow your mind, meditate and send out your prayers for the day.  Breathing regulation and the body moving in natural ways seems to me to be the very best and a very natural form of exercise.  It can be done anywhere and can be done with or without a video, and can be altered to the body’s desires for the day.

Walks in the park and swimming, hiking in the mountains or a quick jog are all lovely but when the desire to stay in one’s jammies hits (every day) we can always roll out the yoga mat in the living room and get an effective and invigorating workout.

 

One’s Daily Tea

JpegCould a simple cup of tea help you keep your New Year’s Resolutions?  Can a simple cup of tea act as medicine?

I drink four cups of tea with herbs in it daily.  Each batch is slightly different.  I will make a month’s worth of tea at a time.  This month’s tea is made up of many herbs that help with the lymphatic system, essentially boosting immunity since I work in a busy apothecary with lots of folks with colds!  I also added plenty of herbs for circulatory and heart health.  A bit of wild yam for progesterone.  And some chai tea to make it all taste amazing (which is also for the circulatory system).

I love this thermos I got from Teavana.  It has the tea strainer built into the top.  I can also easily add ginger, or orange, and honey to my mixture.  I drink more fluids if I have it with me.  Here are some additions to your daily tea, green or black, that will help you achieve your physical goals.

If you want to increase focus and memory so you can get organized– Add 1 part rosemary and/or sage to 3 parts loose black or green tea.

If you want to lose weight– Dry your citrus peels in a paper bag for three weeks then store in a sealed container or freezer bag. Or just purchase dried orange peel.  1 part citrus peels to 3 parts green tea with a little cinnamon added will help metabolism and detoxing.

If you want to help your heart and circulatory system be stronger– Add 1/2 part each; ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom to 3 parts black tea like earl grey or even chai.

To decrease inflammation and boost immunity- Add one part basil to 1/4 part turmeric and 1/8 part pepper to green tea.

If you want to find more inner peace and calm– Combine 1 part each chamomile and lemon balm with 1/2 part roses and lavender with 3 parts Earl Grey.  Delightful.

Simple kitchen herbs and teas can be powerful, safe, and delicious medicine!

 

This One’s For the Girls

No really, this one’s for the girls…

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Homesteading women have many things in common.

One, we care about economics.  There is no way we could live this lifestyle if we weren’t frugal.  We rather like being creative in our endeavors to recycle and reuse.

Two, we care about the environment.  Half the reason we turned to a homesteading lifestyle is because we care about the earth and see her many finite resources being used and trash building up.

Three, we care about health.  We pride ourselves on knowing herbal remedies and leading a healthy, clean lifestyle.

Four, we are women.  Therefore we have moon cycles.

I first read about the detriments of conventionally made feminine products in the Newman’s Own Organic Guide to a Good Life book by Nell Newman.  I had never thought about the sheer cost of these items.  Nor did I consider that they decompose at the rate of diapers.  As in, our great, great, great, great, great…..grandchildren are going to be a really irritated with us!  And the bleach and other chemicals used to make feminine products could be a big reason for the many women’s issues we face today, from hormone disruptions, cysts, fibroids, and cancers.

Niki was reiterating all of these things to me when I met her at her booth at the Pueblo Holistic Fair.  I have read about reusable pads but was skeptical.  I told her without hesitation that I about bleed to death and I wasn’t sure these would work.  She smiled and said they will.  If my body is detoxing, the plastics, bleach, and chemicals from feminine products are going to make my body work harder to detox them too!  I bought a set of her Liddle Rags.  They are made of layers of soft flannel, cloth diaper material, and one side is waterproof fleece.  Snaps secure them.

Wow.  Is all I can say.  Two months of easier cycles.  Comfort.  My cervix was really hurting before.  It doesn’t anymore.  Cramping is less.  Period is lighter.  How is that possible?  Was I just poisoning myself each month?  They are easily washed and very affordable.

Her Facebook page is http://facebook.com/LiddleRags if you want to message her or see what she does.  Better health, save money, and lighter footprint on the earth?  That is a homesteading good thing!

Food Fights; So What is the Perfect Diet?

 

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Eggs are bad!  Eggs are now good!  Meat is bad!  Only factory farmed meat is bad!  Meat is good!  Grains are bad!  Whole grains are good!  What?!

Let’s face it, with so many opinions out there and research proving whatever makes the most money, we can find pros or cons on any diet out there.  So let’s look at it practically.

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#1 Grains- The gluten free fad has gone way overboard in my opinion.  First it was fibromyalgia, now gluten free.  One gal told me she became gluten intolerant due to a car accident.  Ok, so let’s stop blaming our health on one sole ingredient.  I think we can all agree that donuts are not really a part of a good diet.  Super processed wheat is glue in the intestines.  I get it.  But grains have been around since Mesopotamia.  Everything is color coded in the antioxidant realm, and whole grains do their part to heal the digestive lining and is a valuable fiber and protein source for the body.  The antioxidants in brown plants are specific to killing cancer.  Don’t throw out the whole grains!

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#2 Meat- Not sure if I completely go for the idea that we are natural meat eaters.  Our canine teeth really wouldn’t help us sans weapons trying to catch and kill a rabbit.  Or eating it raw.  And let’s face it, without a weapon a deer could kick our ass.  Truth.  However, my ancestors are probably shaking their heads at me a bit whispering under their breath, “You are going to starve…”  I also know they didn’t eat meat every day.  Nor did their animals eat GMO grain before death or die a stressful, horrifying, horror movie ready death.  I don’t often crave meat but sometimes I do.  Learning to listen to the body is key.  I am not sure about all the processed ingredients in the meat substitutes, so a little farm fresh meat when I crave it is probably alright.

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#3 Vegetables- First choice, organic.  Think it’s a scam?  Grow your own, find a local farmer, go organic.  Even a little drift from other fields is not as bad as the full onslaught of chemicals on our food.  I have customers tell me they cannot eat vegetables with all seriousness.  Cruciferous vegetables really get people going.  If vegetables are causing gas and other discomfort that signals us that the body is extremely toxic.  Eat more!  Vegetables are the most essential part of a diet.  Especially greens.  Every cell repairing antioxidant comes in plant form.  Juice Plus supplements are not going to cover your bases.  Green smoothies, fresh juices, lots of color in our dishes, that is the magic elixir for health.

#4 Fruit- “Can’t have fruit, it has sugar.”  I have heard this a lot.  It contains a totally different type of sugar than processed sugar cane or the poisonous chemical fake sugar.  It does not cause a crash or mess with insulin levels.  Fruit contains many antioxidants that are specific to parts of the body to help repair and invigorate.  Fruit is good!

#5- Alcohol, caffeine, sugar- A gentleman in my shop told me that his new year’s goal is to eliminate all alcohol and caffeine from his diet.  I am no fortune teller but I could see a good binge in his future!  I said, “How about one or two cups of coffee in the morning and one drink at night?”  Moderation.  Sugar.  Hey, one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee is not going to kill you.  Raw sugar actually has quite a few minerals in it.  And that tiramisu?  Share it, enjoy it, savor it.  Just not every day.  Life is meant to enjoy.  A bit of common sense comes in handy.  What a shame that we forgot how to eat.  Forgot how to grow our food.  What happened to us?  Time to take back our human wisdom about food.

I guess the key here is trusting your own body over the “research” one can find online.  What does your body want?  Barley over Bisquick.  Organic chicken once a week over fast food.  Does it feel nourishing as you are buying it?  Does it feel nourishing as you prepare  it?  How does your body feel after you eat it?  Create your own research.  No more food fights!  Let’s just eat well, preferably with friends and family, and enjoy our year to come, nourished and well fed.