Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pumpkin Crumble (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Fall is arriving amid cool mornings and rainy days. We watch as the black-chinned hummingbirds become plump in advance of their southerly migration. The prolific doves, who usually move singularly or in small groups, are gathering in large flocks that swoop overhead.

We mist ourselves with lemongrass and lavender oils to repel the pesky mosquitoes; the lovely smell of this repellent has come to signal the winding down of the long summer days. The long-ripening winter squash are reaching fruition, and hence my children have garnered two orange globes from a friend's garden. Pie pumpkins have arrived.

Pumpkin Crumble
Serves 8
  1. One trick to making a crispy crumble topping is to make sure that the butter stays cold.  Keep the butter in the fridge until just before you are going to use it.
  2. Combine the pumpkin puree with milk, syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk or mix with a hand mixer until well-combined.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the sucanat, 3 Tb coconut flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and spices. Whisk to combine. Mix these dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Grease an 8X8 square glass baking dish with a bit of butter.  Pour in the pumpkin mixture.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Chop the cold butter into approximately 1/2-inch cubes.  Place the chopped butter in the fridge to stay cold while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Combine the remaining crumble topping ingredients in a medium-large bowl and stir to combine.
  8. Add the chopped butter to the dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until there is a uniform, crumbly consistency. Note: a food processor does not work very well for this recipe, so use a pastry cutter or two knives instead.
  9. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the pumpkin mixture in the baking dish.
  10. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until the topping has reached a medium brown color.
  11. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  12. Serve warm or cold. Sweetened whipped cream (recipe follows) or vanilla ice cream are fantastic served alongside pumpkin crumble.
  13. Refrigerate any leftovers. 
 *You can read about why I use white rice flour instead of brown rice flour in this archived post.  

Sweetened Whipped Cream

  1. Beat the cream and salt together until the mixture starts to get thick and fluffy.  I like to use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer with the wire whip attachment, but you could also use a hand mixer.
  2. Add the vanilla extract, and drizzle in the honey while the mixer is running.  Alternatively, you could drizzle in the honey a little at a time and mix between each honey addition. 
  3. If you're using a stand mixer, use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure you don't have any clumps of honey at the bottom.  I like to beat it until it gets a bit stiff since it will tend to soften up a bit in the fridge over the next few days.
  4. Store the whipped cream in the fridge in an airtight bowl.
**If your raw honey is very crystallized, place it over a bowl of warm water to make it a bit runny.


What are your favorite ways to use pumpkins?


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Friday, September 19, 2014

Top 10 Storebought Body and Hair Care Products

I love to use homemade body and hair care products, but my husband still prefers some storebought products.  And, since there isn't enough time to make everything, there are some products I have never even tried to make (such as soap). These are our favorite storebought body and hair products. I'll talk about my favorite homemade body and hair care products in a future post.

Skin Care Products

1. Coconut and Papaya Bar Soap
I always thought I hated bar soaps. All of them would leave my skin feeling stripped and dry. But then a couple years ago I was given a bar of Coconut and Papaya Soap as a gift, and realized I was wrong.  This soap has a wonderful, light scent, a smooth, foamy lather, and it does not dry out my skin!  Now I use this soap in my every-other-day showers and in the soap dishes by our bathroom sinks.

2. California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Bodywash 
My husband and son have rather sensitive skin with a tendency to eczema, and in the past they have had skin reactions to soaps and laundry detergents. It took a lot of trial and error to find California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Bodywash, which works for everyone in the family with no skin reactions.

We have been using California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Bodywash for over 6 years now. My son's chronic eczema has now been cured through homeopathy, and my husband's eczema has gotten better and better as he continues his homeopathic treatment.  Nonetheless, we still use this soap.

I use this soap as a gentle facial soap. My husband uses this soap as an all-over bodywash and shampoo. I also add a squirt or two of this soap under running water to make bubbles for my kids' baths, which they use to wash themselves with. This soap is sold at Target for cheaper than it can be found online.
3. Unrefined Coconut Oil
I love using unrefined coconut oil as a moisturizer. I coconut oil as a daily light facial moisturizer as well as for all over my body after showering. Click here to see my tips for using coconut oil as a moisturizer. My favorite brands of unrefined coconut oil (which I use for body care as well as cooking) are Spectrum and Dr. Bronner's, and the best prices for these are at our local healthfood co-op. 

4. California Baby Super Sensitive Everyday Lotion
My husband's preferred moisturizer is California Baby Super Sensitive Everyday Lotion. He has been using this lotion on his sensitive skin for over 6 years.  We used this lotion on our daughter when she was a newborn (back before we realized that kids don't need baths daily; now they hardly ever need to use lotion at all since they aren't bathing daily). I used this lotion as a facial moisturizer for years, until I started using coconut oil.  I currently use this lotion occasionally at times when I need a lotion that will absorb quickly.



My husband and I stopped using conventional antiperspirants many years ago, when we learned how unhealthy antiperspirants can be. Through lots of trial and error, we have both found deodorants that work for us.

5. Alvera Aloe and Almonds Deodorant
For some reason, my body chemistry has always reacted to scents. Back in high school when I first tried wearing perfume, I was always disappointed that shortly after applying perfume the scent would change to not smelling very good.  I have the same problem with many deodorants.

But I love Alvera Aloe and Almonds deodorant. I've been using this deodorant for over 5 years. The fragrance is fantastic, and it stays smelling good all day. This is not an antiperspirant (which is good from a health standpoint), so I do still sweat while using this deodorant. But it does make my sweat smell very good.

6. Bubble and Bee Pit Putty Cream Deodorant
My husband's favorite deodorant for the last few years has been Pit Putty Cream. He prefers the Spearmint and Tea Tree scent, and I love it's refreshing scent. (Being a short person myself, I do get to have a sniff of this deodorant whenever I hug my husband.) Pit Putty Cream contains arrowroot powder which will absorb small amounts of sweat, so I have used this deodorant occasionally when I needed to prevent sweat rings under my arms with dress shirts. 


Hair Products

I use homemade shampoo, conditioner, and hairspray (which will be included in my upcoming list of Top 10 Homemade Body and Hair Care Products), but there are a couple of storebought hair care products that I use as well.  

7. Argan Oil
Argan oil is renowned for its moisturizing properties. Even though it is an oil, Argan oil is very lightweight and does not leave any greasy sheen. Many people use Argan oil as a facial moisturizer, and it is reputed to be anti-aging.  I'm sticking with coconut oil for my face, but I do like to use Argan oil for my hair.

I use a very small amount (one or two drops) of Argan oil after my every-other-day shower. I simply rub the oil on my fingertips and then apply it to the ends of my towel-dried hair. Argan oil helps keep my hair shiny, moisturized, and smooth. Argan oil is very pricey, but I use such a small amount that I have used less than half a bottle in 6 months (and that includes the time I accidentally knocked the bottle over and spilled some).
8. Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion 
This is a very lightweight product that contains essential oils, and it has a watery consistency.  I use it because it reduces frizz and flyaways in my very fine, wavy hair. After applying Argan oil to the ends of my hair, I apply a small amount of Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion all over, and then I scrunch my hair and let it air dry.


In addition to the homemade tooth cleaners I discussed previously, we enjoy using the following two storebought toothpastes. Because my family is hypersensitive, we need to avoid using mint toothpastes as they can interfere with our homeopathic remedies, and that rules out most toothpastes on the market. However, these two options work well for us and are glycerin-free.

9. Lemon EarthPaste
Earthpaste is a non-foaming toothpaste based on Redmond Clay (which is rich in more than 60 trace minerals that may aid in tooth remineralization). I had heard of Earthpaste before, but only ever saw flavors such as cinnamon, which I am not fond of. However, I randomly saw lemon-flavored Earthpaste in the children's section of our healthfood co-op a few months ago, and decided to give it a try.  We love it!

10. Coral Kids Toothpaste
On days when I would like to have the classic foaming-toothpaste experience, I use Coral Kids Toothpaste.  We used Mint-Flavored Coral White toothpaste back before we started our homeopathic treatment, but with out mint sensitivity that option is currently ruled out.  But now we can use the Coral Kids version instead. It tastes great, and people who want something more "normal" will like it just fine.  This toothpaste also contains minerals such as calcium which may help in tooth remineralization.

What are your favorite storebought body and haircare products?

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

3 Essential Homeopathic Remedies For Cold and Flu Season

As cold and flu season arrives, there are three homeopathic remedies that are crucial to have on-hand. When used properly, these remedies can quickly stop an illness from worsening and, in many cases, completely cure the illness within a short time period. Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body to cure the underlying cause of the symptoms, and they do so without side effects.

These three remedies are useful at the beginning of a cold/flu, when the symptoms are still developing. In my experience, many colds and flus can be completely aborted with the use of one of these remedies if given within the first 24 hours of the illness. Once the illness has progressed past the initial stages, these remedies lose their wide applicability. After the first day or two of the illness, success through homeopathic treatment relies upon choosing a remedy that matches the specific signs and symptoms each ill individual, as discussed below in the section titled, "What About After the First 24-48 Hours?"

Three Remedies to Have On-Hand

When choosing which of these three remedies to use for a cold or flu, it is important to match the illness to the remedy based on the characteristics described below.
  • Aconite (Aconitum Napellus) 30c is the remedy to use for an illness that is coming on rapidly with strong symptoms. Often (but not always) this type of illness comes on after exposure to cool winds and/or fright. Sometimes the symptoms will also include fearfulness (such as being scared of death, darkness, animals, etc). When I've had this type of illness, the symptoms seem to become fully developed in about an hour, starting from breathing normally to being completely stuffed up and sneezing in that short amount of time. One or occasionally two-to-three doses of Aconite are all that have been required to make the symptoms completely resolve with no further illness. When used in this way, Aconite is very effective if used in the first 24 hours of the illness. 

  • Ferrum Phos 30c is the remedy of choice for a cold that is not coming on so strongly or quickly as the Aconite-type illness. (If there is fearfulness, though, I always go with the Aconite instead of the Ferrum Phos.) I've used Ferrum Phos successfully for the type of cold that just comes on throughout the day, starting with perhaps some sniffles or a mild sore throat, and slowly progressing over multiple hours. Most commonly, I find that the illness will resolve within 2 to 4 doses of Ferrum Phos, taken every 1-4 hours (depending on the severity of the illness, remedies can be taken more or less frequently). This is another remedy whose beneficial action is most effective if used during the first 24 hours of the illness. 

  • Oscillococcinum (also known as Anas Barbariae) 200c is the remedy to use when the illness has flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, fever, or just a general feeling of being “off” and not quite right. This remedy is sold differently than the others; it comes in a white box that has several small tubes of remedy inside. Although the box says to take one full tube as a dose, that is generally much more remedy than is necessary. We can easily get 5-10 doses from just one tube. Oscillococcinum is also sold in a higher potency than the others as it is usually sold as a 200c (instead of the 30c as with the others). The rule of thumb on 200c potencies is that they need to be used less frequently than 30c's. I use 200c potencies no more than 2-3 times a day, and if there is no obvious improvement within two doses, I stop using the remedy. Oscillococcinum is for use during the first 48 hours of illness only, after which it loses its efficacy.


Proper Dosing

One of the biggest mistakes that people often make when they first start using homeopathy for acute illnesses is taking remedies too often.  Homeopathic remedies should not be used in a mechanical fashion, such as "take this every 4-6 hours for 7 days". With all homeopathic remedies, the least number of doses is always the best plan.  

Anytime there is obvious improvement happening, the best policy is to stop taking the remedy and then watch-and-wait.  Taking too much remedy can actually interfere with the curative action of the remedy, or in some cases cause a full relapse. Once the remedy has stimulated the body to cure itself, and the body is showing signs of definite improvement, the remedy should be stopped. No more remedy should be taken unless it is indicated by a regression in symptoms or a plateau (where the symptoms stay the same for several hours).


Antidotes and Handling

Whenever homeopathic remedies are being used, certain substances should be avoided because they can antidote the remedies.  The following are best avoided while using homeopathic remedies:
  • mint (including mint tea and toothpaste)
  • camphor/menthol (including Vick's VapoRub, Tiger Balm, cough drops, etc)
  • coffee or decaf coffee (tea is fine to consume in moderation)
  • any substance that causes a change in the nervous system (such as alcohol, recreational drugs, etc)
  • over-the-counter and prescription medications (always talk to your doctor before stopping any prescription medication)
  • skin medicines (such as cortisone cream)
Additionally, homeopathic medicines should be taken with a neutral mouth (no taste or smell of previous food/drink), which usually means at least 10-20 minutes after eating.  No food or drink should be taken within 10-15 minutes after taking each dose of the remedy.

Care should be taken handle the remedies properly by:
  • not touching the remedy with your hands
  • storing the remedy away from sunlight, strong odors, and heat
  • not opening the remedy in a room with strong smells (such as herbs, cooking smells, etc)


What About After the first 24-48 hours?

The three remedies listed above work wonderfully in the first 24-48 hours of illness, but after that time homeopathic remedy selection is not quite so simple. Homeopathy can still work wonderfully after the first 24-48 hours of an illness, but the remedy has to be selected to match the very specific symptoms that have developed.

For instance, some remedies work better for burning heat and high fevers, whereas other remedies work better for low-grade fevers; some remedies work well for illnesses that feel better while lying down, while others work for illnesses where the patient feels best outside. Being able to select the proper remedy at such a time requires a good knowledge-base or at least some very good reference books on-hand. Some of my favorite reference books for relatively quick remedy selection in acute illnesses are:

 Have you tried homeopathic remedies for acute illnesses?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Hot Fudge Sauce (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

As a special treat, my husband requested hot fudge sundaes. I was excited to develop this recipe for hot fudge sauce with simple ingredients that I always have on-hand. The results are fantastic: rich, creamy fudge sauce that is perfect on vanilla ice cream. This recipe is so delicious that you'll be licking the spoon and trying to find other things to dip in chocolate. Yup, it's great on strawberries and bananas too!

Hot Fudge Sauce
  • 1 cup soy-free chocolate chips
  • 4 Tb whole milk, preferably from grassfed cows
  • 3 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
  • 1 Tb sucanat
  • 1/2 tsp organic or homemade vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp celtic sea salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Melt over very low heat, whisking frequently. 
  3. Continue to whisk occasionally until the sauce is velvety smooth. 
  4. Drizzle over ice cream or fruit. Enjoy!
  5. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Re-warm gently before serving. Consume within a week.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Homeschooling Desert Walk

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom to throw the plan out the window. This morning, we awoke to a cool, moist morning after rains last night. Since we live in the hot, dry desert, a cool and moist morning is a real treat for us at this time of year.

Instead of our planned schooling, we went for a walk in the desert. We observed many different wildflowers and the proliferation of plants where a few weeks ago there had been just sand. We descended into the arroyo (dry creek bed) where the moist sand was perfect for the kids to build little castles and volcanoes while I journaled in my nature notebook and drew a few plants. 

We saw ladybugs mating, which spurred an impromptu discussion of reproduction. My daughter sighted one jackrabbit bounding away while my son played with a little black beetle. Then we collected a few of the numerous flowers, watched cactus wrens hopping and screeching, and returned home sandy but happy.

Once home, we learned more about ladybugs: life cycle, anatomy, and reproduction. By this time little brother was ready to move on to his usual car play, as big sister and I practiced drawing ladybugs with increasing levels of detail.

I love homeschool and the freedom to create our own curriculum that goes with the flow of life.