Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Deliciousness of Homemade Polenta

photo courtesy of

I made my Black Bean and Polenta Casserole tonight. It is one of my most favorite dinners ever. Because I am lazy, I would often buy the store bought polenta, even though I knew the yumminess of homemade.
Homemade polenta really is worlds apart from store bought. It is quite easy, just requires time. It so much more rich and dimensional and you can add all sorts of lovely spices. Store bought just....stinks. It's like grainy rubber. I mean, in a pinch it'll do, but honestly, just trust me. Make it yourself. Thank me later.

Polenta (pg 61 in A World of Wisdom Cookbook)

1 C fine grind yellow cornmeal or grits
3 C milk or milk substitute
1/4 C parmesan (optional)
1 T butter
Fresh herbs as desired

In a 3 qt saucepan boil milk and butter. Turn off heat and whisk in cornmeal, then parmesan for 4 minutes until thickened. Add herbs and cover. Let it sit until it is 'set up' (about 20-30 minutes). Unmold it onto a cutting board and cut 3/4 inch slices. Saute, broil or bake slices and add toppings.

Polenta and beans (pg 71 in the cookbook)
3/4 C chopped cilantro
1 C diced green chiles
1/4 C salsa verde
3 minced garlic cloves
1.5 tsp cumin
16 oz of polenta (about 1.5 times the recipe above)
1/2 C whipping cream
1.5 C black beans or navu beans
2-3 C shredded monterey jack cheese

Combine 1/2 C cilantro, chiles, salsa, garlic and cumin in a middium bowl. Arrange polenta slices on the bottom of a greased 8 X 8 casserole dish. Drizzle half the cream over it, top with half the beans, then half the chile mixture. Sprinkle with half the cheese and repeat layering. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes at 450. Uncover and bake till top is browned, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What in the World are Probiotics?

Pro biotic: For (pro) life (biotic)
Antibiotic: Anti (against) life (biotic)

I first really understood what probiotics were when one of my kids a few years ago took an antibiotic for an abscess. With everything in me, I didn't want her eczema to flare up again, so I gave her a probiotic. Since then, our family takes probiotics almost daily. I use it for cavity prevention, after someone has thrown up to get the good bacteria flowing again, before someone throws up to get rid of the bad bugs, indigestion, and as an illness preventative.

You've seen the ads. Probiotics this, probiotics that. Yet, when I suggest them to people, they still give me a blank stare like they haven't heard of them.

Probiotics are incredibly important for you immunity, your digestion, your skin, really everything.

Why do you need them?

Short explination: Your body has a balance of bacteria in your system. The good bacteria keeps you healthy. The 'bad' (I put bad in quotes because it's not that the bacteria is so much bad as it can become bad, like my little 4 year old when she wants candy and I won't give it to her), so the bad bacteria can over run the body when you don't have enough of the good bacteria and wreck havoc on your system, causing all sorts of symptoms like yeast infections, fatigue, brain fogginess, eczema, lowered immunity, etc.

Probiotics are basically your good bacteria. The bad bacteria, namely yeast, can literally eat you from the inside out if it's overrun in your system. The role of yeast in our body, is that it primarily helps your body decompose after you have died. But if you have too much of it and not enough good bacteria, it can help you decompose while you are alive.

Why does our good bacteria die off? We are inundated with antibiotics....
stress, processed food, literal antibiotic medicines, other pharmaceuticals, vaccines, plastics...we are all exposed to toxins that kill off our good bacteria.

There are tons of studies on probiotics, like how it increase brain function, immune function by up to 70%, prevent tooth decay, improve behavior, improve digestion.

Here are some studies to whet your whistle:

With the cold and flu season fast approaching, if you do nothing else to boost your immune system, incorporate probiotics into your routine. They come in many forms:

food, like some yogurts, sauerkraut, and miso

You can also make your own probiotics quite easily
and inexpensively, but whatever you get, make sure that your probiotics are refrigerated. It dies in heat, which is why people who live in hot climates need even more supplementation!

Here is a short list of symptoms caused by too much bad bacteria and not enough good:

colic....lots and lots of colic
cradle cap that tuned into a lot of dandruff
eczema/dry skin
extensive diaper rash
prolonged wheezing after illness
unexplained anger
joint pain
digestive problems
cramping (during menses or not)
athletes foot
gluten and or casein intolerance/Celiac disease
mastitis (breastfeeding infection)
sore/cracked bleeding nipples during nursing

To remedy this, I suggest you take the Cand-e-Cleanse from and a good probiotic and fish oil supplement, like Barlean's Lemon Swirl (My kids fight over who gets the fish oil first, it literally tastes like liquid Lemonhead candies). I had to tincture my own cand-e-cleanse formula (and added a little bit of sweet cinnamon to offset the bitterness) to give to my kids, but once their gut was in check, the difference was amazing! I can always tell just by their behavior alone when their gut is off balance now, it's that drastic.

If you have experience with probiotics, please post which brands you and your kids like best!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Depression: Detoxification Outweighs Drugs

Depression: Detoxification Outweighs Drugs

I had a hefty response to my very fist post on this blog, with some of the responders asking how to get off of anti depressants.

So, I give you this article.

There was a lot of things mentioned in this article, and I want to give feedback on my personal experience with some:

Mercury: I had some big allergic reactions as a preteen to mercury and subsequently got some of my fillings replaced. After that, I lost some weight, slept much better, had more energy and was a happier kid. Mercury is a huge toxin that needs to be avoided!

Aluminum: I reduced and have no eliminated my aluminum exposure after I heard rumblings of aluminum being connected to Alzheimer's (Which my Grandma had for years and years) as a teen. This heavy metal, along with mercury, is very damaging. Both cross the blood/brain barrier. Again, avoid it!

Candida (yeast) overgrowth: holy cow, this is a pervasive problem in our country, something like 80% of the population has an overgrowth leading to many varied symptoms. I have personal experience in balancing my yeast levels that I could write a whole blog post about, but long story short, balancing your yeast will make a WORLD of difference. And it can be easy!

Tryptophan: love this supplement. When my husband began taking it during his illness, all of the sudden he could sleep all through the night and took the edge off of his mood swings. BIG fan of tryptofan! Eat your nuts!!!

Depression: Detoxification Outweighs Drugs

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Come Here Honey, and Give Me Some Sugar

This article was my first ever newsletter entry, and it's such a prevalent topic, I thought I'd repost. I wrote this back when Wild Oats was Wild Oats, and not Whole Foods, so make adjustments where mentioned. It's long, but good!

Ah, sugar…..One of the topics most brought up with me when talking with someone who wants to make a healthier switch. And, rightly so. We Americans have become addicted to sugar, and the thought of living without it can send people into a panic. With the holidays fast approaching, and sugar ready to flood our parties, stores, and mindsets, it leaves many wondering ‘What am I to do?’ ‘How can I fend off my kid’s (and sometimes, spouses) whining and begging when they will soon be practically swimming in opportunity to eat sugar right and left?’

Back in 2000 I made the commitment to live the WOW, but it wasn’t until 2001 that I really put a lot of commitment into the sugar aspect of my diet. I was then pregnant with Sage and at the prompting of my good friend Jonelle, I decided to make a commitment to the Lord. We both decided that for one year, we would eat no refined, white sugar. Natural sugars were fine, but none of the white stuff. Keep in mind I was pregnant and the holidays were coming up…A double whammy. How could I pass up my ultimate comfort food at Christmas…my mom’s cinnamon rolls? Real convenient timing, eh? What if I had some pregnancy craving I just couldn’t resist? But making sacrifices isn’t about convenience, so I sucked it up and prayed for help.

Needless to say, I fell off the wagon about 3 times, and each time, because I had made a spiritual contract to avoid sugar, I paid the price with illness. After that year, though, I had a peek into what addicts go through, and never again will I cold heartedly pass judgment on them. The first 3 days were horrible. I went through the cupboards and refrigerator looking for sugar I knew wasn’t there, because I didn’t buy anything with the white stuff. I felt like a crazy person…like a crack addict looking for a hit. Maybe somehow I’d find a stray chocolate chip. Maybe, just maybe, Scott had hidden a candy bar somewhere in the house. Could the girls have dropped an M &M between the couch cushions? I’m glad there were no hidden cameras in my house, I was embarrassed for myself!

The first 3 weeks I thought about sugar all the time. The first 3 months was a lesson in self control and avoiding discussions about sweets. But after the first 3 months, and the holidays, it actually became second nature, although a point of confusion for most people that asked about by commitment. So, anyone who thinks they are not addicted to white sugar, think again. I won’t go into the chemical structure of white sugar, but when all is said and done, after looking at the science, it is clear that white sugar is an addictive substance.

One of the excuses I get as to why people can’t stop using white sugar is the cost of alternative and natural sugars. I address this issue in two ways. First off, once you start eating healthier, you crave sugar less, therefore your ‘demand’ for sweeteners diminishes greatly, and you are not buying sweeteners at the rate you once were anyway. For instance, I find when I have an all fruit smoothie in the morning, not only do I not crave a sweet for the majority of the day, but in fact I often turn them down. Secondly, if you really wanted to make the switch, you would make it work financially. You know, meat costs a pretty penny, yet I never hear anyone complaining how they can’t afford to buy meat. They just make it work, right? And in that vain, per the WOW’s instruction, we are to restrict our meat intake as it is, so just take the money set aside for meat and put it towards natural sweeteners. Also, if you pray to find cheap sources of natural sweeteners, believe me you will find them. If you are living the WOW, it’s that whole “hidden treasures of knowledge” thing that the Lord promises in D&C 89.

Natural sweeteners not only can act and taste just like refined sugar, but some, if not most, have a definite medicinal benefit, stevia and xylitol to name a few. If you have subscribed to this newsletter, I assume you are motivated enough about health to know at least a handful of harmful things white sugar does, so I’ll spare you the preaching. Instead, let me point you to the alternatives to white sugar, as well as my feedback on a few of them. These are just what I would use in baking and I will list these in order of my favorites:

1. Honey: I love honey. My third born's middle name is Honey (after my Grandma, who’s birthday she was born on, but it’s a nice coincidence that I love honey. Plus it’s fun to say, “Come here, Sage Honey”) It comes in tons of varieties and also has many medicinal properties. I prefer raw honey, because the heating/pasteurization kills many of the nutrients and enzymes. I also like raw honey because it’s sure to be organic. Conventional honey is gathered by bees from plants sprayed with pesticides and chemicals and those chemicals end up in the honey we eat. Further, conventional bee keepers use sulfa compounds and antibiotics on the bees regularly. At the end of the season when they are ready to extract the honey, conventional bee keepers will kill the bees with calcium cyanide and carbolic acid. Organic bee keepers don't do that; they work with nature. The bees gather nectar from organic plants. Since bees can fly around a certain area, the entire radius must be free of pesticides. The plants depend upon the bees for pollination. This furthers the entire organic process! Supporting organic honey supports our earth.

2. Sucanat: This word comes from the term Sugar Cane Natural. I first found out about this in 1999 from a random little healthy living newsletter. When I brought it home, I had my husband taste it and he went a little nuts. “Where did you get this?! This is the stuff we used to eat in Brazil. It was the only sugar they really had.” Also, I couldn’t keep the girls away from it – they loved it! I knew I had a winner. It was also relatively affordable compared to other natural sweeteners. How it’s made: After sugar cane is harvested, it is pressed to squeeze out the juice. The juice is then filtered and evaporated to remove excess water. The resulting syrup is then crystallized, and it is rich in molasses flavor plus the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements found in the sugar cane plant remain as a source of nutrition. Sucanat is rich in minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium) trace elements (chromium, copper, zinc, and other) and vitamins. Like other whole foods such as brown rice and whole wheat, Sucanat contains up to 3% mineral salts. Sucanat can be used as a one for one replacement for white and brown sugar. The only down side is that it turns everything brown. It also has a more subtle sweetness than refined sugars, which I personally like, but others don’t. Some also refer to this as evaporated cane juice, but you will see that these are two different things. Rapadura is another name for this product. I usually wait for a sale on the bulk sucanat at Wild Oats and then stock up.

Honey and Sucanat are pretty much the only sweeteners I use, but in a pinch, or if I’m feeling like I want something different; the following is what I reach for next:

1. Agave: LLLOOOVVEEE Agave. I first tried this about a year and half ago at Young Living Farms in Mona, UT. It is naturally "tapped" like maple syrup. It comes from the Agave cactus, native to Mexico, and best known for its use in making tequila. It is similar in consistency to honey but pours more easily. It dissolves nicely in liquid. It is 10% glucose and 90% fructose, but this is fructose in its natural form (unlike high fructose corn syrup). It is absorbed more slowly by the body since it is lower on the glycemic index, and therefore eliminates highs and lows of regular sugar. It does have a slight flavor to it but the lighter varieties have less than the darker varieties. It contains minerals like Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium. You can find it at health food stores, but it is a pricier item.

2. Date sugar: I started using this in 2002, when I would get it from a date farmer at the farmer’s market. It is intensely sweet and very granulated, similar in texture to refined sugar, but darker like sucanat. It is created from grinding dried dates. It is sweet with a wonderful flavor and can substitute regular sugar in recipes 1:1 while imparting more flavor, fiber, and nutrients. In fact it contains all the vitamins, minerals and fiber found in the fruit. However, it does not dissolve in liquid like sugar so it cannot be used in drinks. I bought a lot of this at the farmer’s market, so I am unclear where else it is carried.

3. Xylitol (pronounced Zylitol): I just found out about this one this year as a result in my quest to find ways to remineralize my girls’ teeth. Found naturally in fruits like strawberries, raspberries and plums, and trees such as birch, xylitol is also produced in our own bodies. Xylitol is from a group of sweeteners that are often used in food called sugar alcohols or polyols. These in fact are not either sugar or alcohols, but natural compounds formed from sugars. Not only does this look exactly like white sugar, it tastes very much like it, too. Also, many studies have found xylitol to be great for teeth and preventing cavities, but also good for diabetics. Recent studies show that
Xylitol destroys bacteria that may cause ear infections and ulcers and may even help strengthen bones. My only gripe, besides the price, is that it left somewhat a of a funky after taste when I made cookies with it, but that may have been a fluke, so I will keep on experimenting with this. But my girls LOVE the gum and tooth gel made from it, under the brand name Spry. You can also get this in syrup form. Available at the health food store.

So if none of these float your boat, below I have listed other natural sweeteners. Personally, I have no desire to use any other baking sweeteners, but please let me know your experience with any others!

1. Molasses (I do use this when called for in recipes). There is blackstrap molasses, which is ridiculously high in magnesium and copper, but the molasses that most people bake with is not blackstrap molasses, and while although still nutritious, should not be confused with blackstrap. Check the label, though, as you can get nutritious baking molasses

2. Maple Syrup and/or sugar (evaporated syrup crystals…like the ones left at the mouth of the maple syrup jar). Maple is incredibly high in potassium and calcium (better than milk!).

3. Sorghum (extracted from the sorghum cane (related to millet) and is similar to molasses in consistency, though the color and flavor is lighter.) High in niacin and iron.

4. Amasake (made by fermenting sweet brown rice.)

5. Stevia (not my favorite, but some people loves this plant leaf as it has a great nutritional and medicinal benefit)

Now, as far as store bought sweets, you can actually eat quite well buying baked goods, cookies and what not made from natural sweeteners from the grocery store. Typically evaporated cane juice and fruit juice sweeteners are used.

I want to give you a head’s up about evaporated cane juice, though. While although better and less refined than white sugar, this can also be really refined, and therefore not the first choice, in my opinion. Sometimes Sucanat is also called evaporated cane juice, so you need to be savvy in that regard, they are not the same thing. This processed cane juice is also known as Turbinado sugar and Demera sugar, Florida Crystals and Raw Sugar (these are steam-cleaned rather than bleached like white sugar).

Additionally, when it comes to fruit juice sweetened items, again, while although better than white sugar, when juice is concentrated, it is cooked down and therefore not only are the beneficial nutrients destroyed in cooking, but it turns from a complex sugar to a simple sugar. This is also the case with Brown rice syrup (made from fermented brown rice and sprouted whole barley) and barley malt syrup (made from whole barley which is sprouted to break down some of the carbohydrate into the simple sugar maltose.) Still, I’d eat these any day over white sugar.

Just as a side note, the term refined, as used in our food chain, has an interesting history. Several centuries ago, refined sugars were expensive to produce, and were also taxed at a higher rate. Therefore, only the affluent could afford them. Refined goods became a symbol of status. People who had access to these foods were called “refined” people. Interestingly, this affluent sector of the population also had a disproportionate rate of disease and illness as compared to the lower classes that only had access to unrefined, natural foods. There appear to be references to the evils of sugar as early as the 1800s when rations in the military were compared to standard civilian meals and it was determined that refined foods had a potentially negative impact on health.

I’m not even going to give the topic of artificial sweeteners any time. I hope everyone knows to stay away from these poisons at all cost. Yes, that includes Splenda.

So, eat well my fellow WOW junkies! You can have your cake and eat it, too. Please be sure to check out the web links in my sources as well.