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Dehydrating Frozen Vegetables
June 2, 2020Whether you are just getting started or a pro at dehydrating foods, one of the easiest things to dehydate is frozen vegetables. It's always preferable to have home grown or fresh organic vegetables, but sometimes you just need something different, or maybe you are building a pantry and need a head start. Check the frozen vegetable aisle of your local grocery stores and see what you can find that will add to your well stocked pantry.
When you are working with fresh vegetables, some varieties require blanching before placing in the dehydrator, but when working with frozen vegetables, the blanching is already done for you.
Just open the bag and pour everything on the dehydrator trays in a single layer. Some foods may require checking to remove anything you don't want in the finished product -- for instance, I like okra (think gumbo) but I have learned that the frozen sliced okra has the stem end of the okra pods in the bag - obviously the big machine that cuts the okra doesn't know to remove the stems. Just look through whatever food you are dehydrating and remove anything you consider undesirable.
Then put everything in the dehydrator and turn on for the desired time. You can even mix what you dehydrate - a tray of carrots, a tray of peas, a tray of okra - you get the idea. Quick, easy, convenient and customizable - what more can you ask for?
For detailed instructions, check out the dehydrating page for frozen vegetables.
BPA Can Lining - the 'New' Version
May 22, 2020You've heard of BPA lining in cans - and know it's a bad thing. But what's the big deal? Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins (i.e can lining).
Because BPA is used to line food and beverage cans, such containers are considered a major source of human exposure to the chemical. One study found that just five days of eating canned soup led to a 1,000 percent increase in BPA levels in urine, compared with eating soup made from fresh ingredients. (Source: NaturalNews.com)
The 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older. (source). In other countries, particularly Europe, BPA is not allowed in anything that will touch food. Here in the US, our FDA is still 'studying the issue' . . . .
The food canning manufacturers have a challenge - to find a balance between preserving the shelf life of a food item canned in a metal can - and the negative health challenges posed by BPA (or other plastic related) lining materials. I was in a big.box store recently and picked up a can of organic cut green beans. Thinking that I haven't had time to can any of my own, I purchased a couple of cans for my pantry. While reading the label (always!) I noticed a new way of listing the lining material . . . . Non-Intent BPA. Really? Is it BPA or not? Intent or not? If you want to learn more about the 'Non-Intent' part of this, you can read about the 'new' lining materials - polyesters - here in an article from the American Coatings Association. Will that really be a healthy improvement? Do you want your food sitting in a can lined with a polyester resin???
This is another great case for canning your own food. Glass does not contain anything harmful - no plastic lining - no metals to break down with the acids in the food. Glass canning jars are reuseable - you can easily sterilize them - they comes in lots of sizes and shapes - you can see what's inside - and better yet --- you decide what's inside. No additives, no sugars (unless you want them), no preservatives (other than salt) - just healthy food that you have complete control over.
That being said, I confess that I do buy a few things at the store - in metal cans. I love hominy - and I do not have the time (or the inclination) to work with lye - I will leave that up to the experts. I also don't grow artichokes and you can't find them in the markets where I live - and I love artichoke hearts. I can buy frozen artichoke hearts, but they still have citric acid which I avoid. You get the idea - no matter how much you would like to be completely self sufficient, it's just not real in today's world. My thought is that if you keep the largest majority of your food supply under your control and avoid the additives and preservatives, then the small amount that sneaks through with a few special foods will not overwhelm your body and your immune system.
Drink Your Vitamin C
May 13, 2020Lemon (or lime) juice flavonoids have well known antiobiotic benefits. They have antibacterial and antiviral properties, lots of Vitamin C which helps your body make white blood cells and some magnesium and potassium so your body can use all the vitamin C efficiently.
When researching the nutrients in lemons/limes, I found that every lab had different amounts for all the nutrients - which obviously depended on the exact size of the fruit they used - but a side by side comparison is:
An average lemon contains about 3 Tbsp of lemon juice and 2 tsp of lemon zest
An average lemon contains about 21.6 milligrams of Vitamin C.
. . . so . . . 1 Tbsp of lemon juice is about 7.2 milligrams of Vitamin C
Limes are close but a little less . .
An average lime contains about 2 Tbsp of lime juice and 2 tsp of lime zest.
An average lime contains about 13.2 milligrams of Vitamin C.
. . . so . . . 1 Tbsp of lime juice is about 6.6 milligrams of Vitamin C
and that's only the juice - what about the rind and peel?
The peel is more nutrient dense than the juice - albeit a bit more of a challenge to enjoy.
The peel has about 3x more Vitamin C, 8x more Vitamin A, 22x more Calcium, and 50% more Potassium.
Lemons and limes also have several minerals - potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus - and on the vitamin side of things, there is a healthy dose of folate and choline with small amounts of other vitamins as well.
Lemon or lime juice also has a beneficial ph level that is easily absorbed into the system - so it is a more assimilable source of vitamin C (and all the other nutrients) than supplements. Additionally, the natural form of citric acid found in lemon and limes supports the production of stomach acid (bile) so the juice can aid in digestion. Natural citric acid is great - MCA (Manufactured Citric Acid) is NOT.
OK, so we know the juice is healthy - and a great antiobiotic - but how to enjoy the juice without adding sweeteners or other ingredients that take away the healthy aspect?
Let's say you are supposed to drink 64 ounces of water a day - that's 2 quarts. I like lime juice much better than lemon juice, so I put 1 Tbsp of lime juice in a quart jar of water and sip along - and I try to drink 2 quarts of water a day. I don't add any sugar and at this dilution, the lime is so mellow that I find I don't need any form of sweetener. Another benefit is that the electrolytes in lemon (or lime) juice are great for quenching your thirst - an all around winner.
How much? Aim for 2 Tbsp per day - for general health. If you are fighting virus or cold you can add more lemon/lime juice - to the point of tolerance. It is almost impossible to take in too much vitamin C naturally - but if you did, the only outcome is mild diarrhea.
Remember the peel - that powerhouse of nutrients? This is where the dehydrating comes in - all citrus is super easy to dehydrate - just slice thinly and put in the dehydrator. The dry slices can be added to water - for cool drinks - or for fabulous teas - or the slices can be ground into a powder. The powder is super concentrated, so use very sparingly, but try sprinkled on foods for a great zing of flavor. If you cook with the citrus (fresh, dehydrated or powder), the vitamin C goes out into the tea/cooking water, but as long as you are consuming the water, you are still getting the benefits of the Vitamin C and the other nutrients.
Covid19 vs Past Years
May 11, 2020
In the 2017-18 flu season, over 80,000 people died from flu and it's complications, with over 900,000 hospitalizations related to the flu. (source) -- remember this is 2 years ago - before Covid19. As of May 11, 2020 deaths in the US from Covid19 are at 80,653 - but even that number is suspect due to the fact that doctors were told to assign Covid19 as the reason for death in cases that the doctors did not feel were Covid related. The same is strongly true in Italy where ANY death in a facility that had at least 1 patient with Covid was deemed to be a Covid related death. This should give you 'cause to pause' and think.
Let's put it in perspective:
During the 2017-2018 season, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was at or above the epidemic threshold for 16 consecutive weeks. During the past five seasons, the average number of weeks this indicator was above threshold was 11 (range of 7 to 15 weeks). Nationally, mortality attributed to P&I exceeded 10.0% for four consecutive weeks, peaking at 10.8% during the week ending January 20, 2018. (Source: CDC.gov)
My point is that every year, thousands of people die from the flu and it's complications - flu related deaths are the 3rd most common cause of death. You cannot be paranoid of the 'next' strain of a flu - is Covid19 bad - absolutely! - but keep a calm perspective.
In an article by Dr. Marc Sorenson, EdD, he explains what coronovirus is, how the immune system reacts to the virus in the body and how the virus creates a Cytokine storm in the body. In very simple terms, the body's immune system tries to help, but gets out of control and doesn't turn off - leading to cellular damage in the lungs, hence pneumonia.
While the experience of Covid19 has - perhaps - awakened a nation and the world to a higher level of knowledge about coronovirus, there is much to be learned about the benefits of fresh air (outside), sunshine (outside), a healthy immune supporting diet (daily), as they compare to vaccines and drugs. More on that soon!
Sunshine or Antiobiotics?
May 7, 2020
The DHS - Department of Homeland Security - has been working 15 hours a day, seven days a week since the onset of Covid19 to discover the secret to preventing/curing Covid19. They needed to know how long it lasts on surfaces - and under what conditions - how long does it linger in the air - how can we best kill the virus? They have worked diligently and tirelessly . . .. and what did they discover caused the virus to die the quickest ? Sunlight - outside - fresh air - humidity.
Sunlight! Yep, the cure of the ages, sunlight has been a known disinfectant since 1882 when the German microbiologist, Robert Koch who discovered TB proved that sunlight would kill the TB virus. (Source: The Sunlight Institute).
Not only does the sunlight actually kill the virus itself (Covid19) - in the air and on surfaces - but when our skin is exposed to the sunlight, awesome things happen inside the body to help us resist - or combat - the virus. When the skin is exposed to the sun's UVB rays (midday sun) vitamin D is made from the cholesterol in the skin. Vitamin D is necessary for the proper function of your immune system - and vitamin D is known to participate in the activation of white blood cells which help fight infection.
A Commercial Application . . . .
The flu season of 2017/2018 killed over 80,000 people - and how did the hospitals disinfect their equipment? Current research at the time showed promise in a specific spectrum of ultraviolet light. Far-UVC was effective at killing airborne viruses without causing harm to human (or rat) skin. There needs to be more research on far-UVC but this would be a very welcome alternative to the awful antiseptic stuff emitted from the machines on the walls in public bathrooms and meeting facilities. To anyone with a chemical sensitivity, those machines (and any aerosol disinfectant like Lysol) are poison.
Fast forward to now and Covid19 has created a shortage of hospital equipment like gown, masks, etc. Hospitals are turning to UV light as a method of disinfecting equipment so it can be safely used more than once.
But what about once you're sick? Is sunlight the cure after infection? Should the body be subjected to UV rays directly? This technique is still up for debate, but a healthy dose of outside, fresh air and direct sunlight on your body is a great part of a healthy routine to not only build up the immune system, but help the body eliminate a virus/bacteria that has taken up residence.
So why on earth are cities/states around the country so bent on forcing people to stay inside?
Is it really about your safety?
Granny's Fruit Compote
May 5, 2020It really doesn't get any quicker or easier than this recipe.
Adjust the quantities for how large a bowl of fruit you want.
Will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.
A glass or ceramic bowl is best, stainless will work in pinch.
Fill the bowl half way with as many types and quantities of dried fruits as you would like.
Cover well with clean boiling water.
Cover with plate, pan or similar lid until mostly cool (15-30 minutes)
Cover securely and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Be generous with the water - not only do the fruit need the water to rehydrate, but the extra water makes a fabulous fruit liquor - actually the liquor is the best part, so extra is always a good thing.
You can leave the fruit chunky or dice everything up. This works well with breakfast cereals, over pound or angel cake, or even over ice cream. If you want to keep it healthy, it's also perfect for mixing with yogurt.
For the fruit compote in the image, I used prunes, peaches, figs, apricots and raisins.
Canning and Dehydrating - Avoiding Commercial Additives
May 4, 2020Why take the time to can or dehydrate your own food? I mean really - it's time consuming - and going for a hike by the lake just sounds so much more inviting.
Many people learn the hard way that they have an allergy to a particular food - or group of foods - nuts, dairy, gluten, etc. At other times, the sensitivity to a food may be more obscure and it takes time and diligence to finally determine a food group that you may want to avoid. There are tests, but they are expensive, not completely accurate and to make it even more complicated, your system can change over time and a food that are sensitive to now you may be able to tolerate better a year from now.
One reason for preserving your own food is to avoid a food or food group that you are sensitive to. One of my dogs is allergic to sweet potatoes- yes, really - and if she eats any I am cleaning up the floor for hours. If you have ever read the ingredients on dog food - and I mean the expensive, all natural, holistic kind of dog food - sweet potato is ubiquitous - it's in everything -- so I cook her food and pressure can extra for her as well.
Another big reason is to avoid those pesky additives that the FDA has deemed 'allowable' - even in 'organic' foods - things like citric acid and distilled vinegar. Natural ferment vinegars are safe - in fact very good for you - but regular white, wine, rice, etc. vinegar, not so much.
Natural Citric Acid is found in fruits such as lemon, limes, grapefruit, etc. - but MCA (Manufactured Citric Acid) and Ascorbic Acid - the kind in your store-bought can of mushroom, tomatoes, peaches, etc - read labels - it's in everything - is manufactured using aspergillus niger mold, then chemically isolating the citric acid or vinegar before using it as an additive. Aspergillus niger mold is a known allergen, yet in 2016 , 2.3 million tons of MCA were produced, mainly in China. Aspergillus niger causes inflammatory responses in the human body including breathing, irritable bowel, joint paint, and muscular pain - to name a few.
Many people, me included, have to avoid any products containing citric acid, regular vinegars and yeast. If you are one of these people as well, then canning and dehydrating are great skills to add to your personal arsenal. No commercial canned tomatoes or mushrooms for me!
One more thought . . . . . have you ever noticed that restaurant food just seems to have more flavor than food you may cook at home? You might think they add more salt, maybe some MSG and that may be correct, but the restaurant industry uses a LOT of citric acid as a flavor enhancer in their foods. I'd rather cook my food with love than additives, thank you.
Comparison of Canning Seals
May 2, 2020In the early phases of the Covid19 lockdown experience, I realized I would have extra time and thought I would can some dried beans - always nice to have on hand. I had been thinking about changing brands of canning seals for some time and since I was down to only a few boxes of regular size seals, thought this would be a great time to order some from Lehmans. They have been around forever and I knew they carried the seals in bulk packaging at a better price than the local stores around town with the Kerr/Ball brands in the small boxes.
. . . . . well, it was the most interesting thing . . . seems that everyone else had the same idea and just like milk, eggs, butter, chicken and the like, the cupboard was bare . . . Lehmans is 'still' backordered. I kept looking around and happily located bulk seals at Fillmore Container. I ordered a bulk sleeve (175) of the regular size generic gold - these - and within only a couple of days they arrived. Just a side note - when they arrived, there were 2 paper sleeves, but the count was correct, a bit misleading, but accurate nonetheless.
Truly, other than the printing on the Kerr/Ball seals, I cannot tell the difference. I have canned 4 different projects (dried beans, mushroom, sausage and chicken broth) testing out the seals. Each time I used half Kerr/Ball seals and half generic seals from Fillmore - with excellent results. I had 2 jars of beans not seal (very normal for dried beans) - 1 was a Kerr seal and 1 was a Ball seal. I will be ordering the widemouth size next as I am completely satisfied with these seals -- and especially the price.
I see on a lot of forums around the internet people who have been canning a long time express dissatisfaction with the newer seals - the rubber ring has less rubber and the new seals are actually thinner than the seals of past years (really a long time ago). I will admit that today's seals don't have the really strong PING that you used to hear with the thicker seals, but they seal beautifully and I have not NO - repeat NO - loss from these newer, thinner seals and the shelf life is just as good (for me anyway) as the old seals used to be -- and additionally, I think they may have a better seal rate in general.
Cell Phone Tracking Apps for Covid19
April 30, 2020
In a rare joint effort, Google and Apple are teaming up to implement a contact-tracking app to their phone systems - while at least theoretically - protecting our privacy. The apps will use the bluetooth-based technology and will work across both the iOS and Android phones.
Rollout of this new feature (Phase 1) is estimated for mid-May. The basics are that when you are within 30 feet of another human (with a cell phone) and you spend more than a few minutes in that proximity, each phone will exchange with the other phone a unique identifier number. The identifier number will be stored for 2 weeks. If a person gets sick and is tested positive for Covid19 - and obtains a confirmation code from their health-care provider, that person can go in the app on their phone and set it to identify all persons who they were in near-enough contact with over the past 2 weeks for their phone to have exchanged a unique identifier number. . . . . then the other people (with a matching identifier number) would receive a message on their phone indicating they may have been exposed and they should seek medical assistance, etc.On one hand, this sounds like a great service but there are a few “What Abouts?”:
Back in 2011, a similar app called FluPhone was developed in the UK - only about 1% of the population chose to participate. One would expect a much higher percentage of people to participate after the COVID19 experience, but concerns over privacy might still prevail.
Yun William Yu, a professor at the University of Toronto believes you CAN develop an app that serves contact-tracing, yet will still preserve privacy. The question is will he and his project team members prevail?
If you don't want to participate in this technology, you 'may' have a few options:
In addition to apps that can be loaded onto your phone - with or without your approval or even knowledge - the battery in your phone already provides a surprisingly accurate method of tracking you - now.
5G is really about improving the tracking capabilities - of knowing where you are and how long you are there - but in light of these new apps using the already existing bluetooth technology (or your battery) to track your location(s) one has to wonder at the new and improved capabilities that will be available to the 'authorities' soon.
Salt - For Health, Table and Canning
April 13, 2020Depending on what article you are reading (and who funded the article) you can be convinced that salt is very bad for your health -- or very good for your health. If you are confused, you're not alone - science has been debating the risks vs benefits of salt intake on human health for decades. One of the challenges of all the research is that most of the research is based on regular table salt NaCl which is 97% Sodium Chloride and which is over processed and devoid of any of the trace minerals that might have originally been available -- not to mention the additives like anti-caking agents and the like. Any food substance that is over processed is usually bad for the human consumption, so why should salt be any different?
On the other hand, like most other foods, natural salt - and the additional trace minerals is may contain - is an entirely different story. Modern research indicates that a deficiency in calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals may have more importance on high blood pressure and it's complications that the amount of sodium in the diet. (Source).
Himalayan Pink Salt - this really is a sea salt because millions of years ago the salt deposits high in the Himalayan mountains were an ocean and during the development of the earth, that ancient sea was lifted into the Himalayan mountains. This arguably may be the 'purist' salt on earth, as the deposits have escaped modern pollution and still retain all the trace minerals. Here is a link to an exhaustive list of minerals in Himalayan Pink Salt. The pink is actually impurities in the salt and you will see some not so friendly minerals in the list, such as arsenic and aluminum - but remember that these minerals are in your drinking water and the vegetables that are so good for you as well. The human body actually handles natural forms of such minerals very well and they are removed from the body through urine, feces and sweat - sorry, life is real!
Pink Himalayan Salt is my favorite for sprinkling lightly on top of food (on the plate) as a little bit goes a long way for flavor and the extra zing from the larger crystals is very nice on the palate.
Sea Salt - Like many other people, this was my go-to salt for many years. However, the oceans have become more and more polluted and current research indicates as much as 90% of the table salt being consumed is contaminated with plastic debris. (Source). The plastic contamination, combined with the actual processing methods - dragged out of the ocean, spread out in the open for air, bird and other forms of pollution to further contaminate the salt - then bagged and shipped around the world -- really?? -- caused me to discontinue my support of sea salt several years ago.
Kosher Salt - No - it's not really 'kosher' - the name actually comes from the process of koshering meat - meaning to cure with salt. Some brands are pure (no added ingredients) but others are not - so read carefully before purchasing. If your brand is only salt with no added ingredients, then it is fine for consumption, cooking and some canning applications. Kosher salt will usually be much large crystals and may sometimes be called Rock Salt. If only salt and no other additives, this can be nice in a grinder for table use.
Pickling or Canning Salt - this is a 'pure' salt that does not contain any anti-caking additives, iodine, etc -- it is just SALT - but is highly processed (meaning cleaned, dried, etc) to create a fine grain which will easily dissolve in liquid for cooking or preserving purposes. This is my go-to salt for general cooking and canning. For general cooking and baking, pickling salt will measure just as table salt - so if a recipe calls for 1/2 tsp salt - just use 1/2 tsp - no conversion is necessary.
So . . . . from a canning perspective, use the Pickling or Canning Salt because it is only salt with no added iodine or anti-caking agents or minerals that might cause discoloration during the high heat of canning. Storage? Since pure salt without anti-caking agents is healthier, make sure and store your salt in an air-tight container. Shelf life is indefinite as long the salt is kept completely dry.
Learn about the 10 Largest Salt Mines in the World.
In the Beginning . . . . .
. . . First Blog . . . Why Do This?
April 10, 2020There has to a "first" for everything - a bigger question might be "Why?"
I'm retired - I should be going for walks with my dogs and having lunch with my friends. I tried that for a while, but I don't do the "retired" thing very well - actually I don't do it well at all. I need to be constructive - a part of the world - do what I can to make the world better. For me, a life motto has always been the words of Henry David Thoreau . . . on Pursuing Life . . in a letter to H.G.O. Blake, March 27, 1848:
"Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life as a dog does his master's chaise. Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good - be good for something. All fables indeed have their morals, but the innocent enjoy the story. Let nothing come between you and the light."
I have a reasonable body of knowledge about canning and dehydrating - and about cooking healthy food. I have personal health challenges and through my own journey have learned the importance of preserving food that is healthy for me to eat - without any ingredients that are harmful to me. I believe in the importance of taking personal responsibility for your own health, home and the little piece of this world that you have any degree of control over. I wanted to share my experience - and my perspective - about food, health, being prepared and the world we live in - with the hopes that somewhere in the dialogue you will find a glimmer of something that will help you in your journey as it has helped me in mine.
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