Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Yogurt Makers Compared

 I began making yogurt about twenty years ago.  My first attempts were with the Salton yogurt maker, pictured to the right. I loved that this maker consistently produced yogurt that is perfect in texture.  I believe it has to do with the fact that the jars are nestled inside the cup holders in a way that keeps the heat relatively uniform throughout the yogurt.  However, the company has redesigned their maker, and now it's more of a flat warming tray under the cups.   This maker sells for approximately $30 and can often be found in thrift stores.  The only reason I quit using mine was that I started making yogurt in bulk, and these jars only produce about one quart together.

Then I switched to the Yogotherm yogurt maker.  It costs about $50 and makes two quarts at a time, which I love.  It does not use electricity (added bonus).  However (and this is HUGE for me), the container is plastic.  Yup, plastic.  The warm milk/starter solution is poured into a PLASTIC container which is then lowered into the Styrofoam holder.  I actually wrote to the manufacturer and begged them to produce a glass insert to replace the plastic one.  I'm waiting for a response.  I think I hear crickets chirping in the background while I wait.  :)
ANYway, it makes yogurt of a perfect consistency, but I cannot keep using it due to my horror of putting warm liquids in plastic. . . for hours on end.  Another negative aspect is that the plastic lid is fragile and breaks apart from the pressure build-up of the warm liquid.  Then the warm milk solution dribbles down between the Styrofoam and plastic.  Have you ever tried to clean up sour milk from Styrofoam?  Don't bother.

Now I'm using the YoLife yogurt maker.  It costs about $45-60 for the maker and a set of the small jars.  You'll have to shell out more money if you want the 64 oz jar, or you can use canning jars.  It makes fairly consistent yogurt.  I find that I have to begin over with new starter once a month.  On the plus side, it holds a lot of yogurt.  On the negative side, it's only heating the very bottom of the jars, which tends to overheat the bottom of the jars and create more of a chewy yogurt curd in whey if you incubate the yogurt for more than 12 hours.  What I've done to combat that is to place a thick piece of wool under the jars to minimize the over-heating of the bottom of the mixture.  Also, the maker emits quite a bit of heat beneath it, so if you're placing this on a wood surface, be sure to use an oven trivet.

So what if you don't have a yogurt maker?  You can always use a dehydrator.  I recommend using a thermometer to test the temperature in the dehydrator -- don't trust the dial on the dehydrator to tell you what the temperature will be.  The temperature should not go over 110 degrees.  On the plus side, you can use canning jars for your yogurt -- a lot of them!

My daughter places her yogurt canning jars on an electric heating pad, set on low.  She then wraps a towel around the jars and covers with an upside-down pot.  I have not mastered this technique.  I think my heating pad runs too hot, so I might try using wool fabric to separate the jars from the heating pad.

My dream yogurt maker is one that is under $100 and uses glass jars and a low heating method that heats evenly, not just the bottom of the jars.  If you have any other recommendations, please share in the comments section.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Obesity and Joint Pain

 Most of us are aware that carrying excess weight increases the strain on our weight-bearing joints.  The joints, like any other mechanical device, are built to hold a certain amount of weight.  To exceed their load capacity is to damage their optimal function.  For example, increasing the pressure on the cartilage (the cushion surface) wears it thin.

There is another mechanism for the destruction of joint health in the obese, and that is the change in joint position.  As a person gains weight, the increasing thigh mass forces the legs apart and moves the joints out of optimal alignment.  Not only are the joints bearing an extra load, but they are also meeting one another at improper angles, wearing down the cartilage at the point of maximum compression.

Another insult to the cartilage is the adipose (fatty) tissue itself.  Adipose tissue around joints causes inflammation which wears down cartilage and promotes osteoarthritis. 

A vicious cycle soon develops.  Due to joint pain, physical activity diminishes and weight tends to increase, causing further joint damage.  To break this cycle, the sufferer should see his or her health practitioner and health coach on ways to keep physically active and manage weight.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

GAPS-Friendly Mint Chocolate Bars

This is a bit of work, but oh, so worth it.  The first time I made this, I thought to myself never again!  But after one bite, I knew this recipe was a keeper!  It was a great success with our friends, and I'm sure you'll love it, too!

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted or softened
1/3-1/2 cup honey
1 Tb homemade vanilla
2 eggs or 4 egg whites

1 cup coconut oil
4 Tb honey
1/4 cup water or coconut milk
10 drops peppermint essential oil or 1/4 tsp peppermint extract

2/3 cup coconut milk
3-4 oz chocolate bar, coarsely chopped (see below for recipe)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease 8" square pan.
Whisk dry base ingredients together in small bowl.
In medium bowl, cream almond butter & coconut oil together.  Gradually  mix in honey and then the vanilla and eggs.  Mix in the dry ingredients thoroughly.  Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes.  Let it cool completely.

While cooling, cream the coconut oil and honey together.  Slowly mix in the peppermint and the water or coconut milk.  Use electric hand mixer if necessary.  Spread over cooled base layer.

For the chocolate topping, heat the coconut milk until it simmers, then pour over chopped chocolate in heat-proof bowl.  Let it set for 2 minutes then whisk the two together.  Let it cool until it thickens.  If it doesn't thicken enough, mix in 2 Tbs coconut flour.  Spread over the mint layer.  Refrigerate bars.

adapted from the Paleo Chocolate Lovers' Cookbook by Kelly V. Brozyna

In double boiler (or heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water) melt 6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (roughly chopped) and 2 Tb cocoa butter. Stir over low-med heat until melted.  Remove from heat and add 2 more oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, roughly chopped.  Stir until melted.  Once melted thoroughly, mix in 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and 3/4 cup raw organic honey.  Spread out on parchment paper and refrigerate until firm.   Break up into pieces and store in refrigerator.  Makes great candy or can be used in recipes, as above.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Get the 411, Not the 911

Essential oils had been calling to me, and I kept saying, "Wait a bit.  I'm not ready."  I had felt that I was overwhelmed with life --  with the tyranny of the urgent.   You see, years ago, a friend told me she was using essential oils, and she gave me a sample.  I enjoyed the oil, but as I usually do, I got online and began to research the company before getting involved.  I was appalled to see the overwhelming number of websites dedicated to the poor reputation of that company and its founder, so I waited.  I knew it was inevitable that I would come across a more excellent company later, and that gave me an excuse to keep waiting and not researching.

I am happy that I finally took the plunge last November and began using pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils.  I began slowly, with an oil blend of Blue Tansy, Frankincense, Ho Wood, and Spruce, and within two weeks I was off of my DHEA (adrenal hormone).  This was a huge event for me, since I had been unsuccessfully attempting to wean off of the DHEA for eight years!

I am learning what a tremendous resource essential oils are, and how they are nature's "pharmacy" for us.  I'm hooked!  Most recently, I had a severe allergic reaction to a spider bite.  That brought about the worst itching I have ever experienced, and nothing (not even hydrocortisone cream) would dull the itching except Frankincense and lavender oils, diluted with fractionated coconut oil.

Looking forward to the rest of this journey!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

GAPS-Friendly Rich and Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1/3-1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
pinch sea salt

Place butter, coconut oil, and chocolate in heat-proof bowl such as Pyrex.  Place bowl on pot of simmering water.  Bowl should be large enough to not fall completely into the pot.  Melt ingredients while stirring over medium heat.

When all ingredients are thoroughly melted and blended well, remove bowl from pot.  Stir in honey (adjust to taste), salt, and coconut flour.  

In the pot, replace the simmering water with cold water and a couple of handfuls of ice cubes.  Place the Pyrex bowl in the pot of ice water.  Just the bottom of the Pyrex bowl should be in the ice water. Keep mixing the frosting with hand-held electric mixer until the frosting is a spreadable consistency.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies and Controversy

Dr. Peter Gotzsche is an M.D., but first and foremost he is a researcher.  His method is to evaluate the scientific research that has been completed by others and subject it to tough scrutiny, analyzing the scientific approach and methods used in that research.  One often wonders why the "latest scientific studies" can both prove and disprove the same hypothesis.  If we are to believe Dr. Gotzsche, it is due to the fact that faulty scientific methods, personal bias, political interference, financial gain, and notoriety all have the potential to influence the outcomes of those studies.  Known as a statistics "Ninja", Dr. Gotzsche brings all the facts down to one criterion:  did the researchers use the proper scientific method?

Dr. Gotzsche analyzed the research that was done on the efficacy of mammography.  Does mammography indeed save lives?  If so, then to what extent?  He examined the top studies done worldwide and found that all the major studies which "prove" mammography is beneficial have failed miserably in their application of the scientific method.  Those studies which used the scientific method appropriately all showed that mammography is harmful to the majority of women.  That's an over-simplification of many chapters of explanation in his book, but unless you have a medical or scientific background (and statistics would help, too), you may struggle to keep awake for long sections of the book.

Mammography is harmful? How can that be so?  Why have we been led to believe that we women are all going to die if we don't get our annual screening?  The answer, which is complex, is also addressed in the pages of this lengthy tome.  Many doctors and practitioners truly believe they are being helpful -- after all, they are just prescribing what they have been taught.  Once the word went out that mammography would save lives, they began recommending it to their patients without question.  We, the patients, "took our medicine" and had our annual mammograms (also without question).

This brings me to my biggest concern:  informed consent.  We have, at least in the United States, gotten to the point in which patients are made to fear the dreaded consequences of refusing any treatment, but they are not also informed of the risks of the treatment and the possibility that they may not even need that treatment.  Let me use my example.  I began getting mammograms when I was about 35 years old.  Due to my lumpiness, I got a mammogram almost every year since then, and many times I had to get two complete sets.  By the time I was fifty, I had had about 20 mammograms.  NO practitioner ever suggested that mammography radiation may be harmful.  Then one year I had calcifications show up on mammography.  That led to a second set of films (again). That led to ultrasound, which led to a needle punch biopsy, which led to surgery, which led to me being told I had cancer and needed radiation and drug therapy.  Okay, let's back up a bit.  At first glance, one would think that I am a poster child for how mammography saves lives.  After all, I'm going to show up on the statistics as a patient who was saved thanks to the screening process.  This is because the studies on the efficacy of the screening process look at the ten-year survival rate.  Will I still be alive in ten years?  Yes.  That sounds wonderful, but the studies which are used to promote the efficacy of mammography are neither looking at the overall mortality rate for breast cancer patients, nor the number of women who die from the treatment of breast cancer.

What Dr. Gotzsche concludes is that I was over-diagnosed and over-treated.  My diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) is a "cancer" that rarely becomes malignant and rarely causes death.  So I would have been alive in ten years whether or not this "cancer" had been found.   Yet in this time of "crisis", I was led through one procedure after another, with the urgency of compliance drilled into me.  When I received this diagnosis, I began my research and was prepared for my appointments with the specialists.  I asked the breast cancer specialist if it was true that this "cancer" is rarely invasive.  She agreed that it was true.  So why, I wonder, did all of the "specialists" keep that bit of information quiet during my procedures?  Why hadn’t I been informed?  Then, when I saw the radiation oncologist, I dared to ask if it's possible that the twenty mammograms I had already had could have caused my cancer, and he agreed that it was highly probable.  Again, why hadn’t I been informed of that risk?  Another tightly kept secret is that there has been no overall decrease in the number of advanced breast cancers since the widespread use of mammography.  If mammography catches cancers in the early stages, then there should be a significant drop in late stage cancer diagnosis, but there isn’t. There is much that we are not being told.   I am finding that the medical profession is very tight-lipped when it comes to informed consent.  It is possible that the fear of litigation for under-treatment has caused a shift toward over-treatment.

This is a highly emotional topic for thousands.  Every one of us knows a woman who has had malignant breast cancer.  It is a tragic diagnosis.  We need to keep our wits about us, though, and look at pure, unbiased science as to whether or not mammography is as widely beneficial for all women as we have been taught.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

GAPS-Friendly Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Wet Ingredients:
1 ½ cups packed shredded zucchini
5 large eggs, room temp
¼ cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 – ½ cup honey, warmed

Dry ingredients:
½ cup coconut flour (sifted)
¼ cup almond flour
½ cup cocoa powder (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
 ¼ tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°.   
Prepare one loaf pan by lining bottom with parchment paper and oiling sides with coconut oil.

Combine dry ingredients well & set aside.
In large bowl, combine wet ingredients & mix well.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients slowly while mixing with electric mixer.  Scrape sides of bowl & mix well.
Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes.
Let bread cool for five minutes then loosen bread from sides of pan with knife.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

High altitude:  Preheat oven to 355°.  Bake bread for 10 minutes then decrease oven temp to 350° for remaining 40 minutes.

adapted from The Paleo Chocolate Lover's Cookbook by Kelly Brozyna