Hydration is Critical to a Healthy Immune System

Becky’s Immunity Boosting Tip Number 3: Hydration!

Another super simple yet extremely important way to keep your immune system working well is to STAY HYDRATED with water

Healthy Immune systems need hydration to keep all of the body systems working. The amount of water in the human body can range from 50-75%, so that gives us an idea how important water is to the body!

Adequate water hydration helps to oxygenate the blood found in our body, and that pumps up our cells in order to function at full capacity. Cells working at full capacity will do the best job of fighting germs, bacteria, and viruses. https://hydratem8.com/health/can-water-improve-immune-system/

Water also aides in proper elimination of toxins and wastes from the body

Protects tissues and joints

So how much water should we be drinking?  Conventional theory says a person should drink 8 8oz glasses per day.  However, it really does vary depending on your body weight, lifestyle, health status and of course the weather where you live.  Check with your medical professional about how much water you should be drinking every day.

What are some refreshing alternatives to sugary soft drinks and other unhealthy beverages?

Why not try making a quick sparkling lemonade with sparkling water, lemon juice and stevia natural sweetener?

One of my favorite daily refreshing and hydrating drinks is this great combo of

Sparkling water, fresh citrus juice, a dash of himalayan salt, and a few drops of trace minerals.

Another one of our favorites at home is organic hibiscus tea. The kids really love over ice in the hotter months!

How about making a Jamaican ginger/pineapple/turmeric drink and have some on hand throughout the week?

Homemade kombucha is another super healthy and refreshing daily beverage.

What are some of your favorite recipes for healthy homemade beverages that hydrate?


The 2 EASIEST First Steps to Building a Better Immune System!

Swiss Chard is one of the healthiest veggies around!

In an unprecedented time of self-quarantine, “social distancing”, mandatory mask wearing and talk of injections in order to stop the spread of a virus, we must consider what is the best way to avoid becoming sick and protecting others from becoming sick. 

I think that the best way to avoid getting sick is to have a healthy body and a healthy, optimally functioning immune system.   With this post, I am beginning a series which will outline easy tips to help you build your immune system, which is critical in these trying times.  A healthy immune system can provide an inhospitable environment to pathogens attempting to enter the body, hopefully rendering dangerous viruses and bacteria “dead on arrival”!

My tip for building a healthy immune system is a simple one: 

FIRST Avoid all refined sugars Sugar breaks down the immune system in a matter of hours, damages liver and kidneys, causes mood swings, raises blood sugar levels, accelerates aging and loss of collagen, feeds cancer and hormone issues and can be overall detrimental to the body. We need to avoid this as much as possible.

SECOND, avoid eating processed foods. Processed foods contain unnatural ingredients, preservatives, chemicals and toxins. The body is unable to break down these fake ingredients properly which can cause strain on the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system etc. This makes it more difficult for the immune system to properly function.

So regarding particular items, I’m talking mainly about:

White sugars, products made with high fructose corn syrup, refined white flours, most pre-packaged foods,  and of course just about all commercial fast foods and most of all Soda, Diet Sodas and Sugary/Artificially Sweetened Beverages

Why is the soda out of stock when we are trying to stay healthy?

So does that mean we should never eat sweets again or have a few chips and a tasty burger every once in a while?  No not necessarily. I think it’s ok to have a treat every once in a while,

BUT SERIOUSLY, ONLY EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE,

especially in a time when we are really trying to avoid getting sick.  This is such simple idea, yet for many of us, can be a difficult one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging either, because I’m one of those who really likes sweets!

Even the local newscasters joke about how much junk food they are eating in quarantine, just minutes after giving their alarming reports about the day’s presumed Covid 19 death counts. Drives me crazy!

So let’s figure out some easy ways to replace those bad bad sugars and processed foods with some healthier alternatives: You can start transitioning towards healthier treats made with healthy sweeteners, more fresh foods and some homemade fun foods! For sweeteners, try raw honey, real stevia (not the tru stuff), coconut sugar, whole rapadura sugar.

Try more

Fresh fruit,

Veggies with hummus,

Sourdough crackers,

Healthy nuts and seeds

More fruit,

And more veggies lol! 

Lots of healthy refreshing beverages and teas

And for the every once in a while sweet treat, how about:

Some dark chocolate,

Coconut flour chocolate chip cookies,  

Almond flour peanut butter cookies made with coconut sugar

Sourdough discard brownies,  

Organic kale chips

What have you been doing these days to replace sugar and processed foods?


How to Make Immune Building Elderberry Syrup!

Homemade Elderberry Syrup
In front of elderberry bush at Hassayampa River Preserve in Arizona April 2020

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The elderberry has become very popular in the past couple of years, but elderberry tinctures and syrup are time tested natural immune boosters that have been in use for centuries or more.  Elderberries (official name Sambucus Nigra) are harvested in many different parts of the world. 

Elderberry as an antiviral?

Ripe elderberries!
Elderberries before ripened at Hassayampa River, Arizona

According to the World Health Organization More than people across the world suffer from influenza and as many as 250,000-600,000 deaths are reported annually.

The CDC reports (accessed April 9, 2020) that from October 1, 2019 to March 28, 2020 there have been 24,000 to 63,000 influenza deaths.

While no supplement or herb is shown proven to cure or prevent disease, it is interesting to know that several studies have proven that elderberry is active against influenza.  The study cited below states that:

“Elderberry compounds have been found to be highly effective against influenza and as an immune booster.  In this particular study it was shown that …that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus,” said Dr Golnoosh Torabian. “It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells…” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190423133644.htm?fbclid=IwAR3o7y3DHek7qNPZLwHvhw_HBsb1gH-gWUkIJY7sJ55Gbj_9ZniCzDhvXAg

PLEASE NOTE: There is currently no research available to confirm that elderberry is active against the COVID 19 virus. Please consult with your medical professional with questions regarding Coronavirus.

Elderberries have many nutritional benefits:

  • High in vitamin C: 
  • High in dietary fiber: 
  • A good source of phenolic acids: 
  • A good source of flavonols: 
  • Rich in anthocyanins: 

You never want to eat raw/fresh elderberries because they may cause nausea and vomiting.  Eating them boiled and prepared into a syrup or in a tincture/extract is the best way to get health benefits.

My daughter and I prepared this elderberry syrup,  adapted from Katie Wells’ recipe https://wellnessmama.com/1888/elderberry-syrup/

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. I prefer to use whole cloves and mash them with a mortar and pestle to bring out the essential oils.
  • Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.
  • Remove from heat and let cool until it is cool enough to be handled.
  • Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil, I use my bean masher.
  • Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  • Discard (and compost if you can) the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
  • When it is no longer hot, add the honey and stir well.
  • When the honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a  mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
  • Store in the refrigerator up to seven days, adults may take one tablespoon per day, children over 2 years 1/2- 1 tsp. Many have taken normal dose up to four times in the case of flu.
Fresh Organic Ginger
Mixing the spices!
Clove, one of my favorite spices!

Enjoy your elderberry syrup! It has a smooth, sweet taste and is easy to take daily for up to twelve weeks. We take a couple of days off from the dosage a couple of days a week to let the body rest. The kids have gotten into a good routine and it’s not a chore to have them take their syrup!

If you prefer to buy rather than make the syrup, try this elderberry extract https://amzn.to/3cqDM3K.

Let me know if you made some or bought some….


Seven Benefits of Eating Pomegranates

I wanted to get this post up before the pomegranate season was completely over. I have loved pomegranates since I was a child, we had several trees in our backyard in Central Phoenix. I loved to just pull them off the stem, crack them open and eat them outside.  Now we have had pomegranates in our yard in Mesa since we moved in, but this is the first year that I really paid attention to watering them accurately. In the weeks before I went to Mexico City this fall, I was patiently waiting for my pomegranates to be ready.

Hanging out amongst my trees

When I arrived back from the Distrito Federal, (D.F. as many call the Capitol of Mexico) my pomegranates were ripe and waiting for me! Hurray! I was so excited (it’s the little things in life)!

Pomegranates have become extremely popular in the last decade or so, but they are truly an ancient fruit, originating in the Near East – Persia and India. They eventually made their way to the U.S. with the Spanish explorers who called them granadas, and now they are in my backyard, lol!!

Some of the our pomegranate harvest

HORTICULTURE

The pomegranate is actually a shrub rather than a tree as is generally thought. It grows well in arid areas, which makes it nice for those of us whose live in the 115+ degree summer weather! Given the proper amount of water and in the proper way, these shrubs/bushes will flourish even in the desert!

This summer I noticed that while some of my pomegranates were growing nice and large, some were also splitting. I made a call to the friendly and helpful Maricopa Cooperative Extension https://extension.arizona.edu/maricopa and they gave me some great watering tips. Apparently the reason my fruit was splitting was because I was watering them unevenly, too much some times and not enough at others. So I put them on a consistent deep watering plan and that seemed to really help.

Large but some about ready to split

Pomegranate Health Benefits

Pomegranates have so many health benefits, it will be hard to list all of them here! Some of the most important are:

Very in high antioxidants, which could aid in preventing cancer and fight certain types of tumor growth. Contain flavonols which may decrease inflammation in the body.

Improves memory

Supplies Iron to blood

High amounts of Vitamin K and C

May lower blood pressure

May reduce plaque in carotid artery and improve heart health, this study in the Clinical Health Journal found that patients who were given pomegranate juice demonstrated reduced LDL and blood pressure https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(03)00213-9/fulltext

May have anti-tumor effects in fighting breast cancer. The National Institute of Health studies have been conducted that shown pomegranate extract can inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359482

The pomegranate leaf is also edible and has many health benefits.

*As always, the information provided here is not medical advice. Remember to consult with your medical provider to ensure that adding this or any food/herb/supplement will not contraindicate any medicines or health situation you may be experiencing.

Organic vs non organic? 

Well of course I always recommend eating organic foods a much as possible.  Regarding pomegranates, I researched the “Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen” and found them on neither,  maybe because the market is still emerging regarding this fruit and there have not been many studies done.  However, I did find in my research that the largest pomegranate producer in the USA does use pesticides in their production.  My suggestion as always is to grow your own if possible, if not then try the farmer’s market before buying conventional.  I have seen several posts on social media platforms from folks offering to sell pomegranates from their yards, please use discernment in these cases.

Finally ripened!!

My favorite way to eat pomegranate is straight from the tree. But I would also soon like to add a recipe for Chiles en Nogada. I first learned about this dish when I read the book “Como Agua Para Chocolate” and saw the movie. It looked so wonderful with all the different colors and flavors.

I do plan to make this dish in my kitchen some time soon and will share my recipe, but in the meantime here is a recipe you can try: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chiles-en-nogada-recipe4-2062175

What is your favorite way to eat pomegranates??


Flor de Calabasa – The Amazing Pumpkin Blossom and Why It’s Healthy to Eat!

A precious bee is pollinating a pumpkin squash blossom on a farm I visited last month in
Hidalgo, Mexico

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, I have been fascinated lately with this wonderful little flower! Who knew that the beautiful flower we see growing in the garden with our squash could be so healthy! It is just the simple squash blossom, but until my dear friend Gloria showed me how to cook with it, I never paid much attention to it.

Besides having a lovely light and mildly sweet taste, the squash blossom has many nutritional benefits. It primarily offers vitamin C and A, as well as folates, phosphorous and magnesium, which are all very important nutrients for body function and health. They have very few calories and are low in carbohydrates so they make a great light snack.

Since squash blossoms are very delicate, you probably won’t find them in grocery store, it is possible that a local farmer’s market may have them from time to time. The best to place to get these flowers is from your own garden!

My pumpkin squash blossoms at home
Trying to get a selfie with my blossoms!

I have found it to be fairly easy to grow squash and pumpkin in my area, but I’m just trying to figure out how to get rid of the tiny ants that have been hanging around – without using any pesticides. I am also learning that there are male and female blossoms, and of course bees are needed to pollinate in order to produce fruit. I think that God is just so amazing in His design that He planned for the females to become fruit and the males are left for us to consume!! See this article for more information on how to distinguish the blossoms: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/squash/female-male-squash-blossoms.htm

The male squash blossom is the one to eat!

In the past Gloria spoke many times about the wonderful squash blossom quesadillas that she used to eat when she lived in Mexico. I never imagined it back then, but I had the chance to try this incredible dish with her near her family’s farm in Hidalgo last month!

While visiting the hot springs in Tlacotlapilco, we got to eat at the cocinas (or kitchen booths) that edged the pools. The ladies there made corn masa tortillas fresh on the griddle and served a comida corrida (daily special) as well as a la carte choices. Of course my choice was a flor de calabasa quesadilla and one with quelites (wild amaranth greens) both with melted Oaxaca style cheese that is very similar to mozzarella.

Oh my goodness were they ever delicious, and of course even better topped off with a spicy fresh salsa!

Handmade corn tortillas
Squash blossom quesadilla
Wild amaranth quesadilla

Amaranth greens are another incredible superfood. In my part of the world we call them bledo, has anyone ever heard of that? Like the squash blossom, the greens contain vitamin C, magnesium and phosphorus. Surprisingly they also have a marked amount of protein and calcium. This article gives a great summary of the amaranth health benefits: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/amaranth.html

You can make a great authentic Hidalgo style quesadilla right in your own kitchen as well! Here’s what we did to make ours:

Hidalgo Style Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Find the freshest squash blossoms available, (these can come from zucchini and other squash as well)

Clean/rinse gently but thoroughly, slice open to make sure there are no bees hiding out! Remove the stamen/pistil from the middle and set aside to dry.

Make the corn tortillas. I always try to use organic corn masa, Bob’s Red Mill has a really nice one. Cook the tortillas on a cast iron comal if possible, but take them off heat just before they are completely done. Set in a cloth towel to keep warm.

Chop the squash blossoms and about 1/2 white onion and a clove of minced garlic.

To make the quesadillas really authentic you will want to add some fresh chopped epazote herb as well. Dried will work also if you can get fresh. Taste this first, as it has a very distinct flavor and might take some getting used to! (:

Epazote Herb

Saute the chopped ingredients in a small amount of avocado oil or organic beef tallow, add salt and pepper to taste. Shred the Oaxaca cheese. Now you can start to fill the corn tortillas with the sauted ingredients and cheese and heat them in a hot skillet with a small amount of oil. Gently heat the quesadilla until cheese is melted, then add some fresh salsa if desired and ENJOY!!

Slicing the blossoms
The corn tortillas
Sauteing the blossoms and onions
Our Quesadillas de Flor de Calabasa!

These were really fun to make with the kids and they tasted great (almost as good as the ones in Hidalgo) Haha – there’s nothing like the real food on location!

What ideas do you have for cooking squash blossoms? I would love to hear about it!


How to Make a Scrumptious Organic Peach Pie!

Organic Peach Pie from our Home Bakery – Hollyhock and Nopál

I’m back to writing now after enjoying celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) last week! It was a joyous time dwelling outdoors and just focusing on the presence of God and His beautiful creation. This is a photo of the sukkah we built in our backyard.

Our backyard sukkah

So last post I talked about the incredible nutritional value of peaches, and now I want to share my recipe for a sweet peach treat with you!

My love for peach pies started when I was very young. Around seven years old, my mother did me the wonderful favor of entering me into the Kids Cook summer cooking contest at the Arizona Republic/Phoenix Gazette Newspaper.  Each week we kids were to try a recipe and then mail a short report back to the newspaper about how it went. The peach pie recipe was my favorite!

My mother saved the recipes for me from the Phoenix Gazette Summer 1977! That’s me on the lower right at 7 years old.

In college, I started to use a recipe from the Fanny Farmer Baking Book. Now as a mom, I learned to perfect my pie crust preparation by taking tips from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook. It’s been a work in progress and I’m sure I’ll learn some new methods as time goes on!

These days I am using only organic ingredients for my peach pies since conventional peaches have high amounts of pesticide residues.

Peach Pie and Pie Dough

Basic Pie Dough Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s and recipe

For a 9 inch 2 crust pie:

2 1/4 cups organic all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt

3/4 Organic palm shortening

6-7 Tbs cold filtered water

Mix flour and salt together in a food processor. Have cold water ready at hand. Place the palm shortening in bits onto the flour salt mixture. Pulse just until crumbly, don’t over mix. Add cold water one tablespoon at a time and pulse each time. Give two or three more pulses, just enough that the dough holds together, but again do not over mix. You should have a nice soft dough that is not sticky but not dry either. Remove dough from processor, cover and set aside.

Pie Filling

About 5-6 peeled, pitted, and sliced organic peaches

5 tablespoons organic flour

1/4 cup organic or coconut sugar

1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

1 Tb organic lemon juice, preferably fresh squeezed

2 Tbs organic unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 425 F

Roll out half of your dough on a floured surface and lift carefully into a glass pie pan. Then roll out other half and cut into 1/2 inch strips.

2nd half of dough cut in strips

Place peach slices in large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl mix flour, sugar, and salt, pour mixture over peaches and toss gently but well, add lemon juice. Pour fruit mixture into dough lined pan and then dot with butter. Don’t forget the butter!

Dotting with butter!

Moisten the edges of the bottom crust and then weave a lattice top. This is not required but sure makes for a pretty pie!

Sprinkle a little bit (or a lot) of organic sugar on top crust before baking. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes. Reduce to 350 and bake another 20-25 minutes until the top is browned. I always put a cookie sheet under the pie as it is baking since sometimes peach juice may bubble out of the top of the pie and make a big mess in the stove. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Enjoy!!