Monday, November 20, 2017

Sourdough Oatmeal Muffins

I haven't posted in a while as my husband was in the UK for A COUPLE OF weeks after I too was across the country visiting my widowed Dad. So time to catch up on some baking.

One thing I make regularly is muffins. My husband loves one as a mid-morning snack with an apple, and I often will grab one for breakfast on my drive to work with a small portable kefir drink. But so many of them are super high in fat and sugar.

 This one is neither low sugar or fat but it's still in an acceptable range with only three grams of fat per muffin and it makes a very moist and tasty muffin with extra fiber from the oatmeal.

 Sourdough Oatmeal Muffins

 In large bowl mix:
1 cup oats (not instant)
1 and 1/2 cups flour
 1/3 cup brown sugar
 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of Cardamom

In a medium bowl mix:
1 cup skim milk or nut milk
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 large egg whisked (or equivalent veggie egg substitute)
splash of pure vanilla (about 1/4 tsp)
3 Tablespoons butter melted or Vegan "butter" baking stick. (drizzle in slowly while whisking)

Pour liquid ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spray 12 muffin tins with non-stick spray, add batter using a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measure and bake in preheated 375 F. oven for 16-18 minutes (lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 NOTE: To make gluten-free use King Arthurs gluten free flour and add 1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum to the dry ingredients.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Super Easy Chicken Soup

Whether made with real chicken or chicken style veggie protein this is a quick easy soup that you can have on the table in less than 20 minutes. (and it's way better than canned soup).

2 cups water and 2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup diced sweet onion (optional)
1/3 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used two different varieties)

1/4 pound egg noodles
small handful of shredded spinach

2 cups diced fully cooked chicken or cooked veggie protein.

Saute carrots, celery, and onion (if using) in a teaspoon or two of extra virgin olive oil (or butter) for 2-3 minutes to soften.  Add liquid and bring to a low boil and simmer 9-10 minutes.  Add noodles and cook 8 minutes more, adding mushrooms the last couple of minutes.

Add protein and bring to a boil, adding in spinach to wilt in the last minute or so.

Season to taste (I used a couple of dashes of salt and pepper, a pinch of Italian seasoning, a dash of crushed red pepper and 2 pinches of thyme).  If you want a more "noodley" soup use 1/2 pound noodles, I make mine rather low carb.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

DIY Hamburger Helper (with gluten free option)

As a child I loved noodle casseroles.  With a Scandinavian Mom and it being the 60's, that was not a problem.  But she battled cancer most of my childhood, so sometimes even my SuperMom didn't want to cook dinner.  So in the early 70's Mom found  Hamburger Helper. We didn't have it often, but it was a treat for my brother and me when we did.

After many years away from it, I tried a box of my favorite flavor, the beef noodle.  It just did NOT taste the same.  It also had a lot of ingredients I couldn't pronounce as well as corn syrup, artificial colors, soy and MSG.  No Thanks.  I can make a much cleaner version for probably the same cost.

This was not particularly photogenic but it was very tasty, kids love it, and it makes four-six  entree-sized servings. It's an easy to put together meal on a work night, or when you have the grandkids visiting and the dry seasonings can be mixed in batches and stored in a sandwich bag to speed things up even more.

DIY Hamburger Helper Beef Noodle (vegetarian/gluten free version in parenthesis).

1 pound hamburger (veggie "beef" of your choice)
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion or 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce. (gluten-free Worcestershire sauce)

Recipe for that here:

Combine in a cereal bowl:
1 Tablespoon:
Corn Starch

1 teaspoon each:
Garlic Powder

Have ready

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 and 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil
3 MSG-free beef bullion cubes
1 and 1/2 cups milk (almond milk).

2 and 1/3 cup wide egg noodles (gluten-free noodles). Note:  I added extra noodles based on a small person's request :-) using less will give you a saucier dish.

In a large fry pan with a cover brown ground beef and minced onion (celery) and drain.  Add tomato paste and combine and let sit, reducing heat to low for a few minutes to warm it through.

Increase heat to medium and add 1 and 1/2 cups hot water in which you've already dissolved the bullion cubes.

Add milk or nut milk and bowl with dried seasonings/cornstarch/sugar.  When at a gentle simmer add noodles, cover and cook for the time listed on the noodle package directions.

Add salt and pepper (to taste and optional)

Served with corn and some carrot and celery sticks.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rosacea Relief - Bend Soap Style

This blog is now two years old.  I only post a few times a month as my pet blog and author blog keeps me pretty busy.  But I have truly enjoyed my journey to get better health over the last two years.  I have lost 12 pounds, gained muscle tone-working out twice a week, and have a lot more energy eating less "junk" and more real farm-raised food.

One thing that has always been an ongoing issue is my Rosacea.  For those of you unfamiliar it's a skin condition, the origins of which are murky, which causes redness and acne-like eruptions on the face.  It starts as simply blushing a lot on top of a normally pink complixion.  As a child, the crueler kids called me "Beet Face".  As I got older the redness spread and the breakouts began.  I had to wear really thick pancake makeup or people would constantly ask how I got so sunburned.

It's not a fun thing to deal with and if left untreated can not only damage the skin but leave psychological and self-esteem issues.  The skin can thicken and get bumpy and there are large broken capillaries on the face that make you look like you spend your evenings hitting the moonshine. There is no cure for it, you can only control it.  Some dietary changes help (spicy food and chocolate for me are serious triggers) and there is a LOT more the dermatologists can do now for it than when I was in my 20's and 30's.
My unretouched skin October 2015
(all photos just a touch of plain or tinted sunscreen, and a little eye makeup,
I was embarrased to take a photo of my lower jaw, it was so covered in acne-like blemishes).

2015 Yearly cost of skin care  - $600. (Assorted drugstore brands for "sensitive skin" or "acne" and the occasional high-end  cream splurge)

My skin was really irritated and red, and though my cheeks were fairly smooth, I was getting a lot of fine lines around the eyes and my nose and cheeks were bright red.

Time to do something serious about that. I knew it would initially cost me some money but I was desperate for an improvement in the broken veins and redness.

Now, two years later, I have to say my rosacea is totally under control for two reasons.

(1) Natural skin care products (thank you goats!)
(2)  BBL Laser Therapy twice a year at the dermatologist to "zap" the really obvious veins.

The BBL treatment is dermatologist recommended for the control of rosacea.  It uses Broadband Light to destroy the surface, unwanted blood-vessels that accompany Rosacea.  It's not a cure but it helps manage.  It is also said to help over time with some fine lines as the skin reacts to it by building a bit more collagen. I didn't notice any change there, nor did it help with breakouts, but the loss of redness from the "fixed" broken capillaries was amazing.

It is NOT a pleasant procedure.  Unlike the serious anti-aging laser treatments (which I will pass on due to the price) there is no "numbing" gel as that interferes with the interaction with the broken veins.  As best I can say, it's like having hot grease flung on your face or being snapped really hard by a rubber band.  I was in tears by the time we were done, but my treatment provider was SO kind and helped me through it with gentle words and a quick hand, and it was over in just a few minutes. I was amazed to see that even with one treatment many of the prominent capillaries were gone, once the overall light swelling went down (I was at work the next day).  I went twice last year, but as the veins are all treated I'll eventually only need a sporadic touch-up.

Still, even with the veins becoming history the overall redness and texture of my face needed some help as the products I was using on my skin were only further irritating it.  This is where further improving and simplifying my skin care comes in.

In 2016 I was using a dermatologist promoted line but was doing TOO much exfoliating between the exfoliating cleanser and a Retin A product.  The products also contained some ingredients I knew were toxic in high doses. Yes, they helped with wrinkles but all the exfoliating was seriously irritating my rosacea and I really wanted a more "natural" product as all those science experiment sounding ingredients were being absorbed by my body.  Plus, it wasn't helping with the blocked oil glands I had that left noticeable bumps on my face and forehead (Sebaceous Hyperplasia).
 October 2016

2016 Yearly Cost of Skin Care and Dermatology - $2000 as I did two $350 BBL treatments and was using expensive skin care lines, even as I added more high-end organic products. It was quite an improvement, but I still had fairly red cheeks and nose and the breakouts on lower jaw and chin. Plus I REALLY wanted to spend less money on my skin care routine.

Of the "natural" skincare lines I found (which varied a lot in price) I can say that I enjoyed all of the products.  But they still weren't helping as much as I liked with pore size, blocked oil glands, and the rosacea-related acne type breakouts that the laser treatment didn't address.  I was also spending WAY more than I really wanted to.

Until I found:

The last couple of months I've been using JUST the Bend Soap Company goats milk soap on my face, rotating the unscented  (which a friend gave me as a gift) and the tea tree soap (which acne just hates) of which I got a free sample with my first order, and the honey oatmeal on my body.  It does NOT dry out my skin at all, unlike every soap I've used in my life on my face and smoothed the texture out dramatically. Before washing I gently "dry brush" my face (and I'll have a post on the benefits of dry brushing soon) with a soft, natural brush, then moisten my face, lather and rinse with lukewarm water and I'm done.

Instead of a heavy moisturizer or night cream, I just use the unscented Bend Soap Goat Milk Lotion on my face, reapplying a drop or two to protect and sooth in the afternoon if I'm out in a strong wind along the lake (and a little physical sunscreen). Sure I still have a few fine lines around my eyes (I'm 60 next year and sitting in a cockpit at high altitude for 15 years as an airline pilot did not help) but the tone and texture of my skin is amazing in just a few weeks and have I "less red, more glow" than I did even a few months ago.

October 2017 - cheapo camera, unretouched,  no red nose and cheeks, no acne.  

2017 Cost of Goat Milk Facial Skincare per year.  $100.   Yes, per YEAR for lotion and soap based on what I am using daily on my face only as it only takes a small amount of lotion (given the amount I'm using I think the bottle will last 2 months if just used on my face).

Add in a gentle sunscreen and a $350 maintenance BBL treatment for any broken veins that pop up this year and it's still an incredible value in treating my chronic rosacea, literally a quarter of what I spent last year without getting these results.

The Bend Soap prices are incredible.  There are almost no places you can get handcrafted soap for less than $5 a bar and a generously sized lotion for less than $10. (This means more money to buy their genuinely addicting milk bath products and other products).

You can get some scented goats milk lotion for the body, but I used the unscented for my facial skin.  Perfect for sensitive skin the Bend Goats Milk Lotion has no alcohols, dyes, parabens, phthalates, synthetic preservatives or other toxic components.  There are no GMO ingredients, no soy, no gluten and they are Hypoallergenic. Although it is fairly thick, it applies smoothly, dries quickly, and is super moisturizing without adding a bunch of oil to the skin that just clogs the pores. It's also naturally packed with vitamins your skin craves - A, D, B1, B6, B12, C, and E.

The salicylic acid in the goats' milk made a difference in my skin tone in just a matter of a few weeks, the redness is further reduced and ALL of my blemishes are gone. Even the bumps from the clogged oil glands are finally diminishing and I'm pretty sure that over time they will clear up, something that all the online advice of retinal products, magic acne treatments, and even plain old apple cider vinegar, did nothing for.

It's been two years of trial and error but I have to say, I'm able to go outside with just a small dab of  tinted sunscreen instead of pancake makeup and I'm loving that.

I think I need to go hug a goat.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Butter Me Up - Canadian Recipe for Buttered Chicken

The origins of this dish are Indian but it is very popular in restaurants in Eastern Canada.  I had it first in Montreal and when the recipe showed up in my Canadian Living Magazine (I had extended family for many years in Canada and learned how to make some traditional Canadian food) I had to make it, and make it again.  Like many recipes, there are many variations online but this is the one I make.

It's not low fat with the nut butter (and we won't mention the sour cream) but the combination of flavors is really wonderful, despite the perhaps odd-sounding combination of ingredients. I often make it with skinless chicken thighs.

Butter Chicken


2 onions diced
3 cloves garlic minced
(if you avoid onions and garlic substitute celery with additional cumin or a tiny bit of Asafetida)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup cashew butter
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut in halves or quartered
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In slow cooker, combine onions, garlic, butter, ginger, brown sugar, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, salt, pepper, and tomatoes.

Whisk broth with almond butter; pour into slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours or for up to 8 hours.

In a food processor, puree sauce in small batches until smooth and add back to crockpot and bring it back up to a high temperature. Add the chicken; cook on high until juices run clear when chicken is pierced. (about 30-40 minutes when quartered).

Stir in sour cream. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bend Soap Company - Family Run, Family Values

Dwight and Marilee Johnson (no relation to us!) and their family of 11 live on a 40-acre farm in beautiful Central Oregon. I know that area well. Back when I was playing airline pilot we had a run into the Redmond/Bend airport and it was one of my favorite trips as we had a layover long enough to enjoy the amazing scenery.

 As the Johnson's raised a herd of happy healthy goats that ate only good food and were given natural substances to keep them healthy rather than medications that would then end up in their milk – they got the idea of making some soap with it. With a long history as a successful entrepreneur and the support of his creative and clever wife, Dwight's  initial soap soon became a family effort as a result of crafting some soap from their farm’s goats to help with eczema that their young son Chance was suffering with.
Making some goat milk Kefir in my "cowboy wineglass"
 - no milking involved, just a trip to Whole Foods.

Consuming goat milk (which I drink in place of cow’s milk which I don’t digest well) the Johnson family knew the benefits of the milk nutritionally.

• Goat’s milk is full of vitamins, proteins, and minerals
• Is easily absorbed by the body
• And has a pH that is relatively close to that of the human body

Could that also help young Chance's skin if used topically?

They found that by putting a couple bars of their newly created honey and oatmeal soaps into the bath and letting Chance play and soak in the water for 15-20 minutes gave him great relief, and his eczema was practically gone after one week of daily baths like this. This is great news because it’s often recommended that you avoid frequent bathing if you have eczema as it dries out the skin, making the itching worse.
That’s the secret behind their amazing milk bath product. This was one of the first products I ordered, the online ordering easy and the products arriving quickly (with a free sample bar of tea tree soap - thanks!)

Rather than a powdery, strongly scented product like many bath additives, it’s fine shards of the purest soaps with essential oils (except the unscented one which has no essential oils) that dissolves in your bath like a cloud. Goats milk also has natural alpha-hydroxy acids which will gently exfoliate the skin. I used some for the first time last night, the “English Garden” scent and my husband commented on how smooth my arms were when he gave me a hug as I came out of the bathroom in my pajamas. He also commented on how clean and pretty the scent was.

He then used a bar of unscented goat milk soap in his shower to wash his hair. When we first married and I moved into his home, I noticed he only used this one generic brand of dandruff shampoo. I told him several years later that it must work as he had no dandruff. He laughed and said, “I never have, I just hate the strong scents of drugstore shampoo.” Well, the dandruff shampoo was kicked to the curb. So much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies that I didn’t want him using a medicated product he didn’t need. He'd found a couple of natural shampoos he liked but he loved the idea of a bar he can use to shampoo as much as he travels in his engineer job.

He washed his fine blond hair with the unscented Bend Soap and his hair was SO soft and shiny. I’m loving the soaps as well, the unscented for my face cleared up some "I can't have acne I'm over 50!" that developed after I used a new sunscreen that my face and rosacea did NOT like. Within two days, my skin looked 100% better. I’ve never been able to use soap on my face, too drying, but the goat milk soap left my skin soft and smooth, didn’t burn my eyes, and calmed the redness that is the bane of rosacea.

Got Pets with sensitive skin?  Made to lather well, the goat milk soap is easy to use on your dog or cat's coat.  It will get their fur clean, but it is a LOT easier to rinse off than most other pet shampoos.  Gentle and non-irritating on the skin it also doesn't contain chemicals that their bodies will absorb, or remain on the skin to be licked off later.  Always do a patch test first like any new product, but Abby has her baths with goat milk soap (a much more expensive brand so I'm happy to find this) since we got her and her fur is SO soft and shiny.

For a shower or bath for we humans, it’s great. Most commercial skincare products are made with a mixture of alcohols, synthetic fragrances, and other chemicals which strip our skin of its natural oils that keep it protected and are intended to defend it against becoming dry, irritated, and unhealthy.I had a little rubber bucket of assorted bath products for my nightly bath, but I couldn't use them every night or my skin would dry out and itch.  (I hadn't learned yet that the GMO oils used in cheap bath products, even those touted as "moisturizing", can irritate and dry the skin.)

The Bend Soap and Bend Milk Bath have made a huge difference in my skin in only a few days and the milk bath is soothing and inexpensive enough I can use it frequently! I can’t wait to use the goat milk lotion on my face and body instead of the scented products that often make me itchy or break me out.
With the quality ingredients including palm oil, that they ensure is sustainably harvested, it’s no wonder.

So for my book fans and readers some questions

 •Do you suffer from harsh skin sensitivities, like me, spending thousands of dollars over the years trying to help?

 •Are you allergic or sensitive to many skin care products and can’t use them?

  •Are you concerned about toxic products in your body and the effect on you and your family's long-term health?

  •Would you love to use wonderful products to make your skin and hair soft and supple without spending $9 a bar or $30 a jar?

 Natural, gentle, deeply moisturizing, healing and convenient products from a family run company that's had years of happy customers.  What's not to LOVE?

There's soaps, lip butters, scrubs, lotions, and even a natural deodorant and lots of information on their company and products and it's obvious how close this family is.
I so enjoyed the photos on their website of their children helping with the chores and the production - growing up as I did doing things with my brother around our Western home to earn a little money, learning responsibility, sharing, and commitment to something.  As I look at the smiling faces of the Johnson family, I can't help but think of what wonderful family memories are being made right now as they provide a product that supports and nourishes a community of people.

Go check them out, especially the gift tins with the holidays coming up (and seriously- orange Sugar Scrub? - I am SO ordering that!)