Growing A Kitchen Herb Garden

Growing plants and any green alive flora has always been a challenge for me. I just don’t understand why??!? I know I don’t have a green thumb. That won’t stop me!

So this last weekend, I re-started my little herb garden I’m attempting to grow. My other ones didn’t really past the 2 cm height. So, I started to research how to take care of them. And see how I improve and see what I am missing. I thought, well I can’t be the ONLY person who faces these, um – set backs.

I found that there are benefits to growing your own herbs:

  • Fresh ingredients in your recipes
  • Alway available
  • Save money
  • Educational, fun for the family
  • Stress reliever
  • Filled with antioxidants and essential nutrients
  • Make your home/kitchen smell wonderful

In my research I found two important categories of information: what health benefits these herbs have on our bodies and tips to making them grow!

Recommendation of what herbs to grow and how to care for them:

Herb Health Benefits Tips to Growing
Rosemary Boost Memories
Relieve Pain
Help the Immune System
Increase Circulation
Detox
Help with Bacterial Infection
6 to 8 Sunlight
Well drained
Sandy Soil
Humid and Warm Environment
Grows better with terra pots
Thyme Antibacterial properties
Lower Blood Pressure
Helps Fight Coughs
Boost mood
6 to 8 of sunshine
Well drained soils
Prefers a bit more alkaline environment
thrives in hot conditions
Basil Anti-inflammatory
Anti-stress
Helps against cancer
Helps against pain & fever
Protects the liver
Moist soil but well drained
6 to 8 of sunlight
Benefits from afternoon sun
Like humid and hot environment
Pick leaves regularly to promote growth
Parsley Anti-diabetic properties
Helps fight cancer
Anti-inflammatory
Strengthen Immune System
Helps controlling kidney stones, urinary tract infections
Slow starter, can take up 3 weeks to sprout*
Very adaptive herb, full or partly sunny
Grows best in moist soil
*If you want the seeds to sprout earlier, soak the seeds 24 hours in warm water.
Cilantro Detoxes metals in your body
Helps prevent cardiovascular damage
Anti-oxidative, has anti-anxiety effects
Lowers blood sugar
Improve sleet
Anti-fungal properties
Deep fertile soil, well draining
Allow soil go dry between watering
Full sun, south facing – intense heat
Dill Helps with digestion, help constipation
Helps with insomnia
Aids with bone loss & bone mineral density
Helps with insulin management
Helps with excessive gas
Has anti-microbial properties
Very adaptable, can grow in dry or moist soil
Best grows in direct sunlight

 

I hope this helps you and most importantly show you how amazing these everyday herbs can benefit your health.

Now, wish me luck this third round of growing my own herbs!

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The Xylitol Debate

When I originally wanted to write a blog post about Xylitol as a good replacement for sugar, I knew some basic qualities and knew it to be a “natural” sweetener.

After doing research, I learned there is more to be learned and inclusive found lots of articles on both sides of a debate. Some say its great replacement others quite the opposite. Honestly, I didn’t know there was a debate!

Xylitol came on to my radar when my mother’s cancer doctor introduced it to us as a sugar replacement in her diet. Cancer thrives in a sugar heavy diet (our pH level becomes more acidic) and promotes growth.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol produced by fruits, vegetables, corn and birch wood.  When used commercially it usually comes from corn or birch wood.

Benefits of Xylitol

  • It has 40% fewer calories than sugar and 75% fewer carbohydrates
  • Low on the glycemic index
  • It tastes like sugar, no after taste
  • Can replace sugar in recipes at a 1:1 ratio
  • Has anti-cavity properties (quite the opposite of sugar!!)
  • Tooth decay prevention
  • Increases calcium absorption when in the mouth
  • Also has anti-bacteria properties; including ear infections typically suffered by children and helps fight the yeast Candida albicans

Despite all these great benefits, there is some concern on how harmful it can be for human consumption over a long period of time.

Some side effects that have been reported are:

  • Laxative effect; gas, bloating and diarrhea
  • Deathly for your pet dogs
  • If you have IBS or sensitivity to FODMAPs should avoid Xylitol
  • Xylitol needs to be “processed” so it can be used. Xylitol is created by hydrogenating the xylose. Hydrogenated foods can cause some heavy duty diseases like Alzheimer’s, Cancer, diabetes, obesity and liver dysfunction among others.
  • No long term studies available to see what the effects of long constant use of Xylitol

I didn’t know about these side effects, honestly I didn’t experience any. I’ve been using Xylitol for at least the last 3 years lightly and now exclusively using it and natural honey (as my other sweetener).

What sugar alternatives do you use?

Teflon Vs. Ceramic – Battle of the Titans

We strive to use the healthiest oils, eating fresh (or organic) vegetables and even making new healthy recipes.  What we don’t think about is the pots and pans we make these fabulous foods on. This too can contribute to ingesting chemical based toxins.

Most households have Teflon (aka PTFE) cookware and these are coated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that non stick they are known for. PFOA are made of chemicals that are originally not intended to be ingested by our bodies. These chemicals can leach on to our foods when cooking over high temperatures or heat the pan without any foods. Teflon pans release lots of chemicals and carcinogens!

As the Teflon cookware can get chipped or flaked over time; it continues to release chemicals and increase the leaching as these get older. Some pots and pans are not even made with Teflon grade but similar using cheaper materials. EEK!  These harmful chemicals leach on to your wonderful healthy foods.

Ok, now that I’ve scared you! Let’s talk about some alternatives:

Ceramic

I’ve been slowly switching my old pots and pans to ceramic coated ones. Yes, they are more expensive but to me totally worth the few dollars. With good care, these can last. Ceramic coated cookware don’t leach any chemicals, don’t have any chemical coating or residue. Some have reported the ceramic alternatives don’t last as long, however – I personally don’t think so. Its about taking care of the cookware.

Stainless steel and/or Copper

These are the pots and pans most professional chefs uses. Stainless steel are great when browning your foods. These are not coated and don’t have any chemical residues. However some reporting and studies show a small amount of chromium, nickel and copper. These will may affect those who have sensitivity to these elements.

Cast Iron

This reminds me of my grandfather’s farm house! Cast iron pans only get better with each use. Cast iron cookware has been used for centuries and usually used by campers as well. However, I personally find after decades of use, they have this rusty taste?

I thought I would pass on some important findings about Teflon (PTFE) and its chemicals found in EWG (Environmental Working Group) published report:

  • PFCs (used to make Teflon) impair immune system. liver, thyroid.
  • PFCs causes higher cholesterol rates in children
  • Once in the body it doesn’t breakdown, it just accumulates
  • Teflon linked to infertility to women
  • Mothers with higher levels of PFOA (the non-stick chemical) have babies less likely to reach developmental markers

Which cookware do you use?

<start rant>
While researching more details for this post, what I kept seeing over and over is that there is no regulations or restrictions on these chemicals that harm us, our children and even pets (when applicable) by regulatory organizations/entities. Why? It makes me mad how harmful this is and it is in most homes. We need to be informed! Only we can be true advocates to our health!
</end rant>

 

Lentils – Unknown superfood!

 

I think with lentils there is no between. Either you like them or your don’t. I wholeheartedly believe that lentils can be so delicious! It all depends how you prepare them.

Lentils are part of the the bean family, a legume. They come in a few different colours like red, orange, green or brown. I personally enjoy the “traditional” green ones. They are quite affordable and very versatile. You can eat them alone, as a soup and just sprinkle a handful in a veggie soup to boost the nutrients.

They are very high in fibre, iron, folate and most importantly selenium among others.  Folate is very important while pregnant, it minimizes birth defects in babies. So for any soon-to-be mommies, LENTILS is your friend!

As I mentioned in my “About” page, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and her oncologist recommended to increase Selenium intake. The what now?…

Little known fact: Selenium which isn’t in many foods, is a mineral that actually decreases inflammation, decreases tumor growth rates and improving immune response.

For those who struggle with iron deficiency, lentils is the way to go. I mean other than those big dark scary iron pills that make you constipated.  If you are scheduled for surgery soon, I suggest eating a cup of lentils at least 3 -4 days before.

I learned to eat lentils while living in Central & South America. Its a pretty stable food in their diet. They eat it with rice, veggies, fried egg you name it.  Amazing flavours! I just had to learn to make them. Too bad my daughter hates them!

Lentils don’t need soaking like other dried beans out there. Hurray! But it does take an hour or so to cook through.

There are great recipes out there! Below is how I make mine:

Lentils
Garlic
Parsley
Olive Oil (a dash, not too much!)
Chicken Broth
Onion (1/2 onion)
Tomatoes (1 medium sized tomato)
Pepper
Salt
Culantro (not be mistaken for Cilantro)

Throw everything in a pot with water. Usually I put double the amount of water to the amount of lentils. Boil until soft. You may find the water boiling away faster than the lentils are cooking. So I would put more water in until the lentils are cooked. You going to have to taste as you go. Yummy!

Since I am the only one who enjoys lentils at home, I usually freeze the most of it in sandwich bags so when I feel like having some. I take one out and enjoy with my dinner. They pair up great with rice!

Some other great ideas to add lentils to your diet:

  • add in your soups or stews
  • make dips for your nachos / chips or for raw veggies
  • cooked lentils in your juicing blends
  • there are lentil based chips out there too!

How do you eat your lentils?