Sunday, January 11, 2015

a natural approach

Because of my multiple food allergies, I cannot consistently rely on traditional medications when I'm feeling under the weather. Cough drops, allergy medications, headache pills, throat spray, and even prescription medications and antibiotics all contain allergens. Because of this, I've had to trial different homeopathic remedies for various ailments. Some work better than others, and I'm often a bit weary to try them because of the cost and difficulty in retrieving the necessary ingredients.

I've mentioned before that I've been trying out essential oils to see if they can help with symptoms, and so far I've come a long way in managing my seasonal allergies and monthly migraine headaches. Upon coming down with a nasty bug that's been going around the school, I decided to research some cold and flu (and possibly strep) remedies, some of them using essential oils.

I found a range of different combinations and used what I found to make my own cold and flu concoction. Yes, it took longer than downing a little cup of NyQuil, but overall it was easy and did wonders for both of us this weekend!

What I Did/Used:

1. Oregano gargle. I mixed a few drops of oil of oregano, which tastes positively disgusting, but works wonders (keep in mind that this is not oregano essential oil, as gargling with or drinking essential oils is not typically considered a safe practice by licensed aromatherapists) and a little more than a half cup of warm water in a glass. I took a mouthful, gargled for 10 seconds, spit, and then repeated the process a few times. **Just a warning that if you're a wimp like I am, you may want to have something prepared to chew or drink after this! I had a Gin Gin ready and this took away the icky taste quickly, and it doesn't hurt that ginger has healing capabilities!**

2. Oil pulling. I've been doing an oil pulling challenge to help my teeth, and the research has shown that oil pulling is especially good for taking toxins from the throat and mouth. I have a very strong gag reflex so I've never been able to pull for the recommended 20 minutes, but I typically pull for 8-10 minutes. For this batch, I added a few drops of Peppermint essential oil to help with the taste from the Oregano.

3. Cold/Flu lotion. This is the concoction discussed above, created after researching numerous blogs and websites. While you could easily add beeswax or shea butter to make a real body butter type of lotion, the quickest and easiest way is to simply use solid coconut oil. (See the recipe below!)

The Results: I repeated the gargle, the oil pulling, and the application of the "lotion" to my feet twice a day throughout the weekend, once upon waking in the mornings and once in the evenings. While this might not work for everyone, I can tell you that I felt markedly better the next morning (when mornings are usually when I feel the worst), I slept more than I usually do when I'm sick (since I wasn't waking up congested and unable to swallow multiple times during the night), and I felt almost 100% better after two days (when it usually takes 4-7 days).

If you're into trialing home remedies or if you're an essential oil user, I hope this information will help for the next time you're sick!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

the joys of crockpot cooking: a chicken casserole recipe

Nine years (and five days) ago, we got a crock pot as a wedding gift. Six months ago, I used it for the first time. I always had great intentions of making these great meals with it, but I just never really had the knowledge (or motivation) to learn how to use it correctly. Plus, there was always that worry that I'd inadvertently burn the house down.

Nowadays, though, I make just about everything from scratch and my crock pot has become my kitchen savior! I'm kicking myself for all the years I could have been making delicious and healthy meals with this quintessential kitchen appliance.

Weekends and breaks from school have become times for crock pot experimentation and I figured it might be beneficial to post a few of my favorite concoctions for future use (and for anyone who might be reading!)

The following recipe is gluten free (as always, use safe-for-you brands and ingredients!) and could fairly easily be made grain free or paleo by substituting some of the ingredients. I plan to try it out with spaghetti squash or cauliflower "rice" in future variations. It was delicious with the rice, though, and if you are okay with grains I'd suggest following the recipe the first time and then playing around with it later on.

Cheesy Crock-Pot Broccoli Chicken

4 Chicken Breasts, thawed
8 oz chicken broth
6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 heads of broccoli (or 1 head broccoli and 1 head cauliflower)
1 cup greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups rice
1/2 cup coconut cream (or cream cheese)
2 cups cheese
Spices to taste (I use garlic powder, onion powder, marjoram, oregano, a pinch of rosemary, salt, and pepper)

Grease the crock pot with a small bit of butter or oil (I use about a teaspoon of coconut oil and a paper towel to spread it). Place the chicken breasts in the bottom. Dump the carrot chunks in, along with the chicken broth and greek yogurt. Make sure the chicken is at least mostly covered. Then, add the spices. I don't measure the spices as I add them, but I would estimate a teaspoon of garlic powder, a half teaspoon onion powder, a half teaspoon marjoram, a half teaspoon oregano, a pinch of rosemary, a half teaspoon of salt, and a quarter teaspoon pepper. I make sure the chicken is covered in the combination of spices and then cook on high for four hours or on low for six (depending on your crock pot's settings, the times may vary).

After the four (or six) hours, or about an hour and a half before you want to eat, add the broccoli, cauliflower, and rice. With the rice, add about a cup and a half of water and make sure the rice is submerged. (You could also just cook the rice separately and add it when you're ready to eat if that's easier for your situation.)

Five to ten minutes before serving, add the coconut cream or cream cheese and then stir in the cheese until the mixture is nice and creamy. Your amounts may vary depending on the type of rice you use and the humidity where you live.

Hope you enjoy! My husband suggested putting the mixture into a pot pie next time instead of adding the rice, so we plan to try that next!