Tag Archives: Food

Gluten Free Butternut Squash Bread–Beth Trissel

This recipe is made with our homegrown butternut squash, but you can buy some in the fresh produce section of your grocery store or from a farmer’s market. Canned pumpkin may be substituted but the consistency will be a little different, so adjust your flour accordingly and check to be certain the pumpkin is gluten free. I use Jules Gluten free flour (ordered from the Jules website) and it’s fabulous, but there are other gluten-free flours. (***Image of bread and squash from our garden by my talented daughter Elise)

The first step in the process is to cut one large or several smaller butternut squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Place the halves in a rectangular glass or metal baking pan with the open sides facing up and drizzle them with olive oil. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven until well done, approximately 45-60 minutes. The time all depends on the size of the squash. Remove from oven to cool. You can stop right now, sprinkle the halves with salt, add some butter or pure maple syrup, and eat them as they are. But for the purposes of the bread, we forge ahead. I always bake extra. (***Image of the bread baking by Elise)

Dry Ingredients: Mix together: 1 2/3  cups Gluten Free flour (I use Jules) ¼ tsp. gluten-free baking soda (I used Bob’s Red Mill) 1 tsp. gluten-free baking powder (I used Rumford) ¾ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. cloves (I use McCormick spices which are gluten-free). The amount of flour may vary with the consistency of your squash so you may need a little more or less. A whisk does a good job of mixing these together.

Moist Ingredients: Whisk together: ½ cup shortening or oil (I used Smart Balance Omega), 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 cup of mashed up squash, ¼ cup dark molasses (I used Brer Rabbit Full Flavor but have used other brands). The molasses is my secret ingredient. If you use the same cup you measure the oil in for the molasses, it will slide right out. Another tip, blend your moist ingredients in a bowl large enough to accommodate the dry because they’re going in next.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until well blended, never the other way around. I use a large whisk to blend  them. Yes, the same whisk used above. Pour the mixture into a greased bread pan and bake at 350 for one hour or until a sharp knife comes out clean. This recipe makes one large loaf, but I always double it and make three medium loaves. This is a delicious, moist bread reminiscent of gingerbread, on the dense side, but gluten-free bread is denser. It also freezes well.

Everyone in the family loves it, even those who can eat gluten. I’m extremely gluten intolerant but Celiac runs in the family, so it’s entirely possible I got a false negative on that test and also am Celiac.  I gave the brand names because some companies are far more conscientious than others about avoiding cross contamination, and anyone with Celiac or gluten intolerance knows what a problem that is, so the chatter is frequently about which brands are ‘safe.’ You can use any brands that are for this recipe. I don’t own stock in these companies, although I wish I did in Jules.~

Drink Your Way to Health!

Yes, seriously, but I mean with green tea. My latest blood level check shows that not only have they held steady but continued to improve. Long story short, my chronic leukemia (T-cell LGL Leukemia) is getting better, not worse as it’s supposed to be, and not from any medical intervention of the modern sort.  No, this remedy is quite ancient.  And I want to credit the particular tea, Yogi Green Tea with Kombucha, as I wonder if the kombucha component is also playing a role in my improvement.  My daily routine is to drink two quarts (one in the morning and one in the afternoon, (broken up into pints) of freshly brewed tea made with water just below the boil and steeped two to three minutes–longer if I want a stronger cup.  I get two pints from one bag, but if I steep those added minutes then I use a second bag for the next go round.

This kind of tea already has a marvelous fruity, minty taste but I add a bag of peppermint tea (Celestial Seasonings or some other plain mint), to further enhance the minty properties.  Mint is very soothing to the stomach. This is just me, the rest of you will probably be fine with the amount of mint already present in the tea.

Back to my blood levels, my hematologist has gone from skeptical to say the least, to puzzled, to wondering if maybe there’s something in what I’m doing after all because he has no other explanation as to why I’m improving instead of deteriorating.  When I was first diagnosed two years ago in April of 2010, he predicted  I’d likely need the big guns treatment within a year.  He’s happy to be wrong.  I’m delighted, and brewing tea as I write.  My mission, to tell the world.  You don’t have to suffer from chronic leukemia to benefit from green tea.

“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.” ~KAKUZO OKAKURA, Book of Tea

I should also mention the importance of Olive Leaf extract which I came across on a leukemia message board.  I get mine from Olivus online (their best quality capsules) and take one two times  a day.   I began with one capsule and worked my way up.  Olive leaf helps with many things, including being a powerful immune booster and can aid blood levels.  To this I add Vitamin C and TOCQ10 supplements–also beneficial.  The only contraindications I know of for olive leaf are that you shouldn’t take it if you on on a blood thinner because it also thins the blood.  And it can interfere with the effectiveness of an antibiotic so take it at a different time of day.

*This is my story.  Not a scientific study.  But pretty darn amazing.  Also, Olive leaf can make you worse before it makes you better as it cleanses toxins. I sweeten my tea with a little raw honey–also healthful–or plain sugar. Artificial sweeteners are incredibly bad for you.

“Tea … is one of those rare treasures, enjoyed throughout the world, that actually benefits health.”

~KIT CHOW, All the Tea in China

“Tea beckons us to enjoy quality time with friends and loved ones, and especially to rediscover the art of relaxed conversation.”

~DOROTHEA JOHNSON, Tea & Etiquette

“Tea is the most popular beverage, after water, throughout the world.”

~LESTER MITSCHER, The Green Tea Book

***Update August 27th, 2012: My blood levels are good and even a little better than before. The hematologist has declared my T-cell LGL leukemia dormant. I think all the green tea I drink and the olive leaf extract I take has quite a bit to do with this. Not to overlook the power of prayer. The leukemia didn’t just go to sleep on its own.

Some People Like Peanut butter Pie, Some Don’t

In the South, luscious diet-busting peanut butter pie is the pride of local eateries. Especially the small mom and pop sorts of diners and restaurants.  If you can call Fat Boys Pork Palace a restaurant.  Folks drive over the twisted mountains to savor the peanut butter pie at Fat Boys.  And our favorite little diner, Thomas House, in the nearby town of Dayton makes wonderful pies of all sorts, but peanut butter is the best ever.

However, to my amazement, a good friend of mine, a transplant from the Midwest,  doesn’t adore it.  Won’t even allow a creamy bite passed her lips. How can this be,  I ask myself?  She also doesn’t like the peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s Kisses in the center either.  Practically my favorite kind.  But she does love peanut butter, so that’s not it.  Go figure.

All of which brings me to my point–yes, I have one.  People vary wildly in their likes and dislikes, which is a factor I need to bear in mind when I get bad reviews. Outlandish as that may seem I sometimes do.  I know, boggles the mind.

No, I can’t give you Fat Boy’s  or Thomas House peanut butter pie recipes because they guard them with their lives.  *My daughter has a T-shirt that says, ‘I pigged out at Fat Boy’s Pork Palace.’

For The Birds

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Lou Holtz

Some of the cheeriest, downright euphoric, birds in this world are gold finches. And I don’t know how they’ve managed it, or if they’re responsible, but sunflowers have taken over my entire garden except for the plot where I’ve pulled them out and planted vegetables.  This gradually expanding patch is absolutely hedged in by sunflowers.  I don’t know if the birds flung extra seeds all over the ground, or how all these sunflowers came to be, but I’ve never known a garden to be overrun like this.  (*Mom took this pic of a gold finch at her house.)

I plan to leave swathes of sunflowers, maybe even create a maze, but also want to also raise corn, beans, tomatoes…people food.  However, the finches will be back in droves this summer, warbling in delight over the abundant seed heads.  Other varieties of birds also join in the summer-fest in my yard/garden.  I include many plants with them in mind.

From an informative article about landscaping to attract songbirds I found at Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “A diversity of plants can provide birds with a diversity of food in the form of flower buds, fruit, seeds, nectar, sap, and a wide variety of the insects that associate with those plants. Plants also provide nest sites and nest material, and protected hiding places. The larger the variety of plants you grow, the more different kinds of birds your yard will attract.

Select locally-native plants appropriate for the lighting and soil conditions of your property. Consider how big a new plant might eventually grow, and avoid the surprise of it taking over your yard. (*Our back garden is being overrun by a native clematis vine my daughter Elise and I refer to as ‘The Beast.’ We planted it along the fence which it has covered and that’s fine but now its reaching out greedy tentacles for more.  However, the birds love it.)

Plant locally native species. Plants native to your region and locality are more likely to thrive without pesticides or watering, plus they offer the foods best suited to the native birds of your area. (I don’t know if sunflowers were ever native here but they are now. *Blue bird in pic above.)

Year-round Attractions

To keep the birds coming back for more, select a variety of plants that will produce foods in different seasons. For winter residents and migrants that return early in spring, plants that hold their fruits throughout the winter (“winter-persistent” plants) are a vital food source.”

Of course, to this you also add bird feeders.  The article goes on in length so visit the Cornell site (linked above) for more specifics.  One thing it mentions that really appeals to me and makes me feel validated is that not keeping your yard and garden too tidy is super for the birds.  They revel in a good mess.~

“Dead Wood’s Good!

Leave dead limbs and trees in place if it’s safe and not too unsightly for neighborhood standards to do so. Insects that live in decaying wood are an important food source for birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. Cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds and many woodpeckers need old, hollow trees to nest in. To make a dead tree prettier, consider planting native vines, such as Virginia creeper, to disguise its trunk. (*Chickadee above)

Build a Brush Pile

Recycle dead branches to start a brush pile for your ground-dwelling birds, such as sparrows and towhees. It gives them hiding places and some protection from rain, snow, and wind. Start with thicker branches and put thinner ones over the top. Add your old Christmas tree if you have one.

(Yellow warbler above)

Leave a Mess!

If you don’t tidy up your yard and flowerbeds in fall, birds will love you for it. If you grow annuals, especially daisy-relatives such as purple coneflowers, black-eyed susans, and sunflowers, leave the dead seed heads on them when they fade—goldfinches, redpolls, and other seed-eaters will feast on the seeds. Instead of bagging up fallen leaves for disposal, rake them under your shrubs to act as mulch. They’ll harbor insects that ground-dwelling birds will find, too. And, come spring, those dead leaves, grasses, and plant stems will be a treasure trove for birds searching for nest material in your yard.”

*The above pic is of a redwing black bird near our pond.  They call frequently near watery sites.  I love their song.

“My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather.”  ~Terri Guillemets

My grandmother loved birds and always fed them, as do my parents–big bird lovers, and they belong to the local bird club.  I also love birds, as does my husband.  The old feeder I still use is one he built, and I’ve added a new one my sister gave me for Christmas.  If you aren’t already, please join me in feeding and planting with the birds in mind.  Your yard will be filled with song, among the gladdest and most blessed sounds in the world.  And abundant color and life.

“Have you ever observed a humming-bird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers – a living prismatic gem…. it is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description.”  ~W.H. Hudson,Green Mansions

Gift Baskets and Romance~

Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful gift basket?  This post is contributed by Diane, a gift basket blogger and writer of gift basket reviews.

Bring on the Romance with a Gift Basket.

When people think of romance, flowers and chocolates come to mind. However, these two items are not the only things that can inspire romance or reignite passion. Whether you and your partner just got together recently or have been dating for years, a well-prepared romantic gift basket will work wonders for your relationship.

There are countless romantic gift baskets available out there, but you should make your own if you really want to impress your sweetheart. It would be better to handpick the contents yourself and place them in a nice package. Before you choose the contents, think about your partner. The basket is your gift to the other person, and they should enjoy what is in it.

In most romantic gift baskets, alcoholic beverages and chocolates are staples. The baskets usually include either wine or champagne. When you make your own basket, choose the drink that both you and your partner will like. If you are a guy and your girlfriend or wife is pregnant, skip the alcohol and settle for sparkling cider instead. Chocolates can also be added, especially since it’s known as an aphrodisiac. Other edible snacks which pair perfectly with your chosen drink can also be included in the basket.  (*Basket pictured can be purchased at Gourmet Gift Baskets.)

If you want a romantic night to pamper your partner, you can choose to include spa essentials in the gift basket rather than snacks. You and your partner can enjoy spa treatment without leaving home by spending quality time in the tub. This means you have to stock the basket with items such as scented candles, bath salts, bubble baths and loofahs. Do not forget to include massage oils, so you can treat each other to a relaxing massage after you get out of the tub. Nonetheless, if you truly want to treat your partner to a spa, feel free to include gift certificates.

If you want the romantic evening to end on a more passionate note, you might want to add some items which are just for lovers. There are a lot of things in the market which encourage couples to be more intimate with each other. These include satin blindfolds, flavored body butter, chocolate body frosting as well as edible body paints. Just remember to select only the items which your partner will be comfortable with.

If you want to boost the romance factor, forget flowers and chocolates; create your own basket instead!~

Thanks Diane.  I also like the idea of a romantic picnic basket.

For more on gift baskets for any occasion visit Diane’s lovely site at: http://www.giftbasketreviews.net/

Anyone For A Tonic?

Sassafras comes to mind and figures prominently in my American historical romances. I love its varied mitten shaped leaves and distinctive, aromatic scent. My mother has a sassafras tree growing in her yard, but I’d have to head into the mountains to get my fix.

*Note to self, plant sassafras trees. Maybe if I put in an entire grove some would survive. Our challenge is the cows which occupy much of our land and eat anything not protected behind secure fencing. Saplings are among their favorite delicacies.

You might be interested to learn, as was I, that Christopher Columbus is said to have quelled mutinous seamen by the sudden sweet smell of sassafras which indicated the nearness of land. Not only did it aid in the discovery of the New World, but was an important export to Europe in the early days of colonial American, even exceeding shipments of tobacco.

Wine made from the darkly blue berries has been imbibed for colds. During the spring flowering period, the blossoms were simmered to make a tea for reducing fevers. A blood purifying spring tonic was and still is imbibed from a tea made by brewing the roots. A tea distilled from the bark was believed to aid in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory ailments and tummy upset. Chewing the bark was thought to help break the tobacco habit, a problem even in the early days of this country. The roots were distilled and the oil from them used to flavor many products including ginger ale, sarsaparilla, cream soda, root beer, toothpaste…

A poultice made from the leaves and laid on wounds was used to stop bleeding and aid in healing. Native Americans steeped in the many uses of sassafras passed their knowledge along to European settlers in the colonial frontier. A tea from the bark was also thought to be beneficial in the treatment of venereal disease, needed by both Indians and colonists alike. If you wonder what ailments afflicted folk in the early days of this country, you need only read what they were most interested in finding treatments for and cancer doesn’t made the top ten.

How to make sassafras tea: One method is to vigorously scrub several roots, a couple of inches long, and use the whole root or cut them in into pieces and bring to a boil in three pints of water. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for another ten minutes before straining and serving. Yet another method is to drop several roots into a quart of boiling water, remove from heat and steep then serve. A pound of roots will make 4 quarts of tea and can be used several times before they lose their strength.

For the bark, especially used as a spring tonic, cut or grind a teaspoon of bark and steep in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes, strain and sip. The tea from either root or bark should have a yellowish red hue, rich smell and pleasing taste. It can be thinned with milk or cream and sweetened. I would add some honey, but those of you who like it plain, enjoy.

And good health to us all.

Herbal Cures From The Shenandoah Valley

These cures are recorded in Shenandoah Voices by late Shenandoah Valley historian and author John Heatwole. I knew John and much admired him.  He left a wealth of information behind in his books.

For a sprained ankle take catnip, sprinkle salt on it and bind it to the ankle. ‘Mullin tea’ was also used for sprained ankles.  The leaves of the mullin plant were boiled in vinegar and water and the ankle was bathed in it while it was still warm. ~

I like mullin’s soft fuzzy leaves.  As wildflowers/weeds go, it’s not a bad one.  Reaches an impressive size.

Turpentine was also rubbed on a sprain.  You never covered it or it would burn.~

Catnip tea was made for children with the colic.~

Queen Anne’s Lace made into a tea is said to relieve backache.~

Sage and honey tea is a good brew to give to someone with pneumonia.~

Drinking tea made from aromatic sage is said to keep a woman’s hair from turning gray prematurely.~

Lobelia tea was used by Thomsonian herb doctor Gabe Heatwole as a purge.  Lobelia is an annual or perennial plant of the bellflower family.~

Goldenseal and Comfort Root (*Pinelands Hibiscus or Cut-leaf Hibiscus) teas are good for an upset stomach.~

If you have kidney problems, swamp root tea can be used for relief.~

Greasy mustard plaster was used on the sufferer’s chest for a deep cold. To avoid being burned by the mustard, this plaster was made with lard and spread on a cloth that could be laid on the sufferer’s chest without burning. ~ Another non-burning plaster was made with mustard, lard, and egg whites.~

A family in Singers Glen used a mustard and lard poultice for pneumonia.  When the patient’s chest started to turn red, it was removed. The patient was washed off thoroughly, and then a hot onion poultice was applied. ~

*Pics in this post are of our farm and the Shenandoah Valley, but
the pumpkin patch pic is of a different farm.

For a bad cold or pleurisy, they’d put lard on your chest with salt sprinkled on it of a night.~

A tea made a peppermint leaves will stop a stomachache.~

Pennyroyal tea was used to break a fever, for upset stomach and to treat the common cold. It is of the same family as mint and yields aromatic oil.~

During the Civil War, some Valley soldiers chewed slippery elm bark when in battle or on the march. It was said to relieve thirst and hunger.~ I haven’t tried this, but then I’ve never been that hungry, thank God.

Miss Gray Pifer of Mt. Crawford said that ‘horehound grew down near the creek. Momma made a horehound syrup with brown sugar for coughs. ~

In Page County a woman said that her grandfather smoked a corncob pipe, and if a child in the family had an earache, he’d blow smoke in the ear as a cure.  She also said for spider bite, you should cut a piece from a new potato and hold it against the bite. Eventually the potato will turn black as it absorbs the poison. ~


I’m teaching an online class on Herbal Lore and the Historic Medicinal Uses of Herbs in October.  Registration runs through Oct. 2nd at: http://heartsthroughhistory.com/herblore.html

The Cranberry in Colonial America and Cranberry Apple Crisp

Information and recipe from The Good Land by Patricia B. Mitchell, a slender volume about Native American and Early Colonial Food.

Cranberries, called ‘fen berries’ by the early settlers from England, were quickly incorporated into the colonial American diet.  ‘Fen’ meaning ‘bog’ accounted for that early name which gradually changed to ‘craneberry’ due to the slender curving stems of the fruit and then later to cranberry as they are known today.  The trailing evergreen shrubs which grow in marshes and bogs and produce pretty,  wine red berries were also familiar to those newcomers from Europe where it is sometimes called ‘Moss Berry.’

The Wampanoag Indians called the cranberry ‘sasemin’ and made a juice from it which they sweetened with maple syrup or honey. They also used cranberries as a curative for cuts and arrow wounds. The mashed fruit was placed on open wounds to draw out the poison and what we would call bacteria.

Cranberries were also used as a dye for blankets and rugs.  The berry grows as far South as parts of Northern Carolina and West Virginia and was regarded by the Delaware tribe in New Jersey as a symbol of peace.

Cranberry Apple Crisp:

3 cups apple slices, 2 cups whole fresh or frozen cranberrries, 2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup butter or margarine, 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Toss together apple slices, cranberries, and honey.  Make topping in a separate bowl.  Mix butter, rolled oats, flour and sugar until crumbly.  Stir in nuts and vanilla.  Place the apple/cranberry mixture in a 11 3/4″ x 7 1/2 inch dish. Put on topping. Bake at 350 about 50 minutes or until fruit is tender. If mixture gets too dry pour a little hot water over it.

Battling Vampires & Powerhouse Foods That Fight Cancer & Boost Immunity

Those pesky blood suckers haunt my dreams.  I’ve tried bringing in a sharp shooter (not effective) getting them to gang up on each other (better) even enlisted several as allies, however, my supporters weren’t the dominant male or female vampire…and so on it goes every night now in my sleep.  Probably because last week, after a number of tests, the hematologist informed me that I have a low-grade chronic leukemia, likely had it for several years and that I could go on as I am for many more without need of treatment.  It manifests itself in anemia, fatigue, and some fibromyalgia, which has already improved following medication adjustments the doctor made.  It seems certain meds can lower red blood cell count and I was on several that did without anyone realizing.

The official name of this leukemia is T-Cell LGL. There are various forms and I’m extremely fortunate to have the milder kind with none of the autoimmune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and lymphoma)  that can accompany this variety and none of the feared organ damage.  Thank God.  Good news considering this diagnosis has the dreaded L word in it.  But now, I’m besieged by vampires at night.  There’s also a monster under my bed that I’m beating back.

My goal is to remain as healthy as possible while hanging in there hoping for a cure.  There isn’t one yet, but I’ve come across a number of promising treatments and possible cures on the horizon for various cancers, including leukemia, and autoimmune so keep the faith. Meanwhile, as the doctor refers to my condition as low-grade autoimmune, I’m seeking foods that support the immune system.  I’ve spent hours and hours reading up on nutrition and discovered the absolute best foods and supplements to boost immunity and help fight cancer.  Eating healthy isn’t a new practice for me. I’m just more strongly inclined now.

We’ve had our own garden for years and our community is blessed with fresh produce stands and a thriving farmer’s market.  If you don’t have any room for a garden, consider scouting out produce stands.  Aim for organic.  If you can’t find or afford organic foods then wash the fruits and vegetables well.  If possible, at least plant a little salad garden that will supply you with leafy greens, maybe a tomato and pepper plant or two, and some carrots, radishes, beets, parsley, rosemary…lots of good vegetables and herbs can be grown in a fairly small space or in a container garden.

There is no one magic bullet, but some foods and supplements certainly standout. Probiotics are essential. A link to the Mayo Clinic provides more information about the benefits of probiotics found in such foods as, “yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, and some juices and soy drinks. Read product labels carefully, looking for a statement that the product contains “live and active cultures,” such as lactobacillus.”

I’m now taking a probiotic I got at the health food store that needs refrigeration to perform at its best. I also suffer from IBS and it’s helping with that. (If you don’t know what IBS is, then you probably don’t have it and we’ll move on 🙂  Yogurt is a fabulous probiotic.  Buy the plain or vanilla kinds and avoid the ones made with splenda or other artificial sweetener.  Bad for you stuff.  Better to use plain sugar than the artificial stuff.

Stevia is a natural sweetener made from a plant.  Raw sugar is better than processed.  Unpasteurized honey, preferably made from local wildflowers, is good for you while helping you fight allergies.  I am the allergy queen, have gotten shots for eons, and for the past several months have been substituting locally grown unpasteurized wildflower  honey.  My allergies are better this spring and it was a bad pollen season this year.  *Pure, quality maple syrup is also better for you as a sweetener than sugar or artificial stuff.

Green Tea is amazingly healthful.  From this site (Amazing Green Tea): “The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.”

There are an overwhelming array of green teas which made me wonder which is best.  According to Amazing Green Tea, the bottled kinds are not good for you.  Nix the instant green tea mix as well.  Decaffeinated green tea doesn’t have the full beneficial properties of regular, so maybe just drink the caffeinated kind earlier in the day.  Loose leaf green tea has more of the  catechins that give green tea its health benefits than those in bags. You don’t even want to ‘go there’ with the flavored green teas.  According to this site, “How a tea tastes is an indicator of its quality, and how much catechin and EGCG it has. When you buy an unflavored tea, you can judge its quality by how it tastes. You can always add your own honey, lemon or ginseng later if you so wish.”

I wish.   OK, so who has the best green tea?

“The size (age) of the leaves is actually the main criterion for grading green tea, and unlike black tea, green tea quality is directly related to the grading. Teas made of the youngest leaves and the bud are the most expensive…high quality tea tastes sweet and rich rather than tannic.”

So, I have to shell out the big bucks for decent green tea? Hmmmm…I read on. “The highest grade Longjing tea are made from youngest tea shoots. They contain nutritious compounds such as theanine (a relaxant), EGCG (most potent antioxidant), caffeine (stimulant) and gallic acid (antioxidant).”

In conclusion, Longjing is supposedly the best green tea.  But it’s pricey.  Celestial Seasoning Authentic Green Tea came out near the top of the more commonly available kinds and is far more affordable.  I haven’t tried it yet but do like many of their teas, especially Peppermint.  I’m not a big fan of green tea, am an Earl Grey gal, but I like one green variety I’ve discovered from The Republic of Tea. It’s available locally in small tins with natural non chlorinated teabags. I can manage a cup or two a day. That company also has really good Earl Grey,  which is also full of antioxidants.  I drink mine hot with a little milk and sweetened with honey,both the regular and decaff varieties.  No caffeine past mid-afternoon for me, sooner if you’re really sensitive.

Fish Oil. Yes, the good kind is highly beneficial to your health for a variety of reasons.  High quality fish oil ranks at or near the top of recommended supplements.  But not all fish oils are equal. The site I’ve featured is extremely informative, written by a man who spent years researching fish oil and  suggests which variety is best.  I’ve ordered it, so we shall see.

I”m not a big fan of fish and cannot get enough of the oil that way.  I do like tuna and have learned that the lighter varieties have less mercury in them.  All fish have trace amounts, but some contain far more than others.  Quality fish oil is screened for mercury.  If you want to go the route of eating fish rather than taking the supplements, the healthiest choices are: Anchovies, Catfish, Clam, Crab, Crawfish, Flounder, Haddock, Herring, Mackerel, Mullet, Oyster, Perch, Pollock, Salmon, Sardine, Scallop, Shrimp, Sole, Squid, Tilapia, Trout, Whitefish. Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings).

From The Cancer Cure Foundation, a non-profit organization. “The National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly one-third of all cancer deaths may be diet related. What you eat can hurt you, but it can also help you. Many of the common foods found in grocery stores or organic markets contain cancer-fighting properties, from the antioxidants that neutralize the damage caused by free radicals to the powerful phytochemicals that scientists are just beginning to explore. There isn’t a single element in a particular food that does all the work: The best thing to do is eat a variety of foods.

The following foods have the ability to help stave off cancer and some can even help inhibit cancer cell growth or reduce tumor size:”

Avocados, Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, Kale, that whole cruciferous vegetable family, Carrots, Chili peppers and jalapenos (no way I’m eating those) Figs, Flax (ground is best) Garlic, Grapefruits (pink is best) and other citrus fruits, squeeze lemon in your water and drinking more water is also advised, Grapes, red or the dark purple are best, green and yellow leafy vegetables (such as spinach, raw, steamed or stir-fried) Mushrooms (Shiitake, maitake, reishi, Agaricus blazei Murill, and Coriolus Versicolor)

Raw Nuts like almonds (or a selenium supplement), Licorice root (may help limit the spread of prostate cancer, but don’t go overboard as it can elevate blood pressure) Papayas, Raspberries (black are the most effective) Strawberries and Blueberries, the whole berry family is a good one, Red wine (like a glass a day of a kind that doesn’t have sulfites) Rosemary, Seaweed and other sea vegetables, Soy products like tofu,Sweet potatoes, Tapioca, Tomatoes (more effective cooked) Red Peppers, Watermelon, Tumeric…

This is by no means a complete list, but an excellent start.  There are many helpful books on this subject as well as better eating for autoimmune.  One suggestion is Vern Verona’s book on Cancer Fighting Foods. The one I am currently reading is  called Foundations for Healing by Richard L. Becker that addresses a wide array of health issues and well being in general.  I am trying a modified diet based on his and other recommendations.

My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  She has this to say: Last February I had a mammogram that was reportedly clear of cancer, no problems. Well, three weeks later, I was reading a book about the doctor who signed up to spend a year at the South Pole and found a lump in her breast. She did what she could, taking the meds she had on hand, but unable to get surgery til the weather warmed up and a plane could land. While reading, I reached up and felt my left breast. There was a small lump beside the nipple that wasn’t present in the other breast. As soon as I could set things in motion, I did. If you’ve had this problem, you know the scans and further mammograms, biopsy, excruciatingly painful needle insertion, and then the lumpectomy.

I haven’t yet decided on radiation. Those appointments are in two weeks. This is my first time, (at 77 years of age), and I have been feeling kind of besieged. I’d been responsible and had a mammogram. What was this all about? A doctor checked the lymph nodes and they were clear, Even so, the surgeon removed two of them, just for safety’s sake.

A friend lent me a book Anti Cancer: A new way of life by David Servan Schreiber, MD, PhD. In it he describes how his brain tumor was discovered and what he has learned that can lessen one’s chances of having it recur. For various kinds of cancers he recommends probiotics, pomegranate juice, berries, grated citrus fruit skins (organic), several ounces of red wine, grated flax seeds, seaweed (probably not something any of us are used to eating), bitter melon (probably inedible except in extract form). Maitake mushrooms “probably have the most pronounced effect on the immune system.”

Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, turmeric and curry are all helpful. Dr Servan Schreiber recommends, “Mix 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of black pepper. Add to vegetables, soups, and salad dressings.” He also recommends adding grated ginger to vegetables. Those which contain powerful anticancer molecules are “cabbages, brussel sprouts, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower etc.” Garlic is also high on his list of recommendation foods.

He believes strongly that, if we want to help ourselves, even though not much thought is given to diet yet in connection with cancer, we need to be aware of what not to eat (the usual list of sugars, fatty meats, white bread, cheese and what makes up many of our subsistence food at the fast food restaurants).

I will say, in my own defense, that I have tried to eat well for many years. We spent three years on Taiwan and one year in China and like Oriental food, not the fatty, greasy over-cooked stuff found in many US restaurants, but stir-fried vegetables with bean curd and maybe a little meat. I remember the Chinese downing gigantic quantities of garlic. Maybe that’s the answer. According to articles on the internet it is thought to have curative qualities that bring about well being and ward off diseases. With a prayer for your good health and continued curiosity in what might make it better. ~Pat Churchman

My mom is also in remission from Rheumatoid Arthritis after she underwent an unconventional treatment based on a low dose antibiotic regimen.  She has been in remission for years.  She tried the conventional treatments but at that time they were more harmful than helpful.  The diet for boosting your immune system and helping to fight autoimmune is similar to the one for cancer, but limits or excludes the nightshade family, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes, as it can worsen joint pain and fibromyalgia.  Here’s an interesting post on that subject at Garden Web.

From what I’ve gathered we should all be eating far less of the pre-prepared, processed foods and change our diets to include more simple foods, and those made with fewer ingredients. Choose whole grains wherever possible and more and more are available these days.  Look for whole grain pastas and brown rice, rather then white.  Whole rolled oats are a big health food.  Pepperidge Farm has healthy whole grain and oatmeal breads, just check the label to be certain because they still carry some of the not so good varieties.

Get rid of products with hydrogenated vegetable oils and corn syrup.  Very bad for you.  As are soft drinks.  Limit or eliminate sodas.  I still have a little Gingerale for my stomach.  Jiff has come out with a good tasting and far better for you peanut butter which has caused much rejoicing in this house.  Called Jiff Natural. You don’t have to stir up all that oil that rises to the top and keep it refrigerated like the other more healthful brands and my family will actually eat it without noticing its better for them. The low fat version of Triscuitshave only a few healthful ingredients and seem to be a much healthier choice than most crackers and are readily available.  Become a label reader and shop the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh fruits and vegetable and dairy products, etc, are located.

Only roam the interior if you really need a particular product.  Invest more of your food budget in fresh produce and look for what’s in season as it will be less expensive.  And, of course, if possible put in at least a small garden.  Go organic.  Then you know for sure what’s in your food.  Just be careful not to plant edible plants near any kind of wood that has heavy metals.  Don’t use old railroad ties or treated lumber for making raised beds.  Use naturally weather resistant woods like cedar.

Last but not least, Dark Chocolate is good for you!  And the daily treat I allow myself.  From Chocolate and Health: “It’s more than wishful thinking—chocolate can be good for you. Studies show that eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. That’s because chocolate comes from cacao beans (or cocoa beans), which grow on the cacao tree and are full of natural plant nutrients. Most of the studies to date highlight dark chocolate’s health values because it has the highest percentage of cocoa solids, therefore more flavanol antioxidants.” My favorite and one of the best varieties of Dark chocolate is Green and Black Organic Dark 70% cocoa. This link is for the economy pack at Amazon. 🙂

Regarding supplements, women especially need to be certain to take Vitamin D supplements as most of us do not get enough.  Also Vitamin E, the natural kind, Vitamin C, Calcium, and magnesium, another one we don’t tend to get enough of.  Citracal Plus with the added vitamins and minerals has most of these.  But don’t overdo the vitamins and try to get many of them from actual food.  I know, bizarre.

Here’s a link to The Old Farmer’s Market Directory for Fresh Produce in your area.

OK, I’ve given you and me enough to consider for now.  Onward and upward.  If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment and share them with me and my readers.  Hold hands, stay together and help each other is my philosophy and God bless us everyone.

***Update August 27th, 2012: My blood levels are good and even a little better than before. The hematologist has declared my T-cell LGL leukemia dormant. I think all the green tea I drink and the olive leaf extract I take has quite a bit to do with this. Not to overlook the power of prayer. The leukemia didn’t just go to sleep on its own.

Try Your Hand at Growing Bee Balm~One of My Favorites!

If you delight in fruity minty fragrance and the sight of hummingbirds hovering above brilliant tubular blossoms, try your hand at growing bee balm. This Native American herb, also called wild bergamot and Monarda, is available in crimson, pink and purple flowers. As its name suggests, bee balm is attractive to honey bees. Butterflies also favor it. The red variety is commonly known as Oswego Tea and was used by colonists in place of English Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea in the harbor to protest the tax imposed on it by the British.

To make a cup of tea, place a tablespoon of fresh or one teaspoon of dried bee balm leaves in a tea strainer or tea spoon and pour one cup of boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for ten minutes and bring the tea out. Sweeten if you wish and enjoy. The leaves can be chopped and added to salads. Flowers can also be used for tea or salads, but in my thinking that’s just wrong.

Bee Balm has a long history of medicinal use by American Indians and settlers, primarily for stomach and bronchial ailments, and is the source for the antiseptic derivative called Thymol.

I haven’t used the plant medicinally, but enjoy its beauty and delicious scent in the garden. Hummingbirds appear without fail when my patch of bee balm thrives. Recent droughts have hurt it, so this year I’m setting out yet more starts of this invaluable herb.

You can grow bee balm in among other plants, but take care that it isn’t crowded out, a mistake I’ve made. And it’s susceptible to mildew, so sunshine and good air circulation are important. Some recommended companion plants for bee balm are: purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), and lavender (Lavandula).