SPICE STORAGE by Vickie Kline

With the weather turning chilly and holidays just around the corner, are you in the mood to cook and bake? I certainly am. In checking my supplies though, I noticed I had a couple of spices that had lost their color and aroma. I can’t say how long I’d had them in the drawer, so decided to do some research on storing spices properly before replacing them.

Here’s what I learned:

General information: Spices naturally have a protective cell structure to help them last a long time. Spices that are whole or dried will last for many years. Once ground, they become more fragile, but if stored properly will still retain an adequate shelf life of six months to one year.

Storage guidelines:

1. Keep away from heat: In other words, spices shouldn’t be stored next to your stove, an outside wall, or any high heat source. The adequate storage temperature should be no higher than 68 F.

2. Keep cool: If possible, cold storage is recommended at 32 – 45 F, particularly for spices where volatile oil and/or aromas are important attributes. At 70 – 80 F, a spice such as paprika will lose about 1% of its color every 10 days. Cold storage also protects against infestation and rancidity in the fixed oils in items such as sesame and poppy seeds.

3. Keep it dry: Spices shouldn’t be stored in close proximity to a laundry room or anywhere there is high humidity. To keep spices dry, 60% relative humidity is as high as you should go.

4. Keep away from light: Spices such as paprika, parsley flakes, and chives are sensitive to direct sunlight or fluorescent exposure.

I’m now thinking it’s best to purchase spices according to what I will use within 6 to 8 months. Otherwise, there is risk of them going bad.

Enjoy the holidays and share lots of good food items! They’ll be even better with fresh, aromatic spices…

Strive to be healthy!

Information courtesy of Canadian Spice Association

Image courtesy of Morocco Spices

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RECIPE FRIDAY: Spinach cakes

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, or low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Pulse spinach in three batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add ricotta (or cottage cheese), Parmesan, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper; stir to combine.
Coat 8 cups of the muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the spinach mixture among the 8 cups (they will be very full).
Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto a clean cutting board or large plate. Serve warm, sprinkled with more Parmesan, if desired.
Recipe shared courtesy of Eleanore Johnson

SNORING by Vickie Kline

This topic is on my mind today because my husband has slept in a different room the past couple of nights. Yes, my name is Vickie Kline and I snore. Oh my gosh… I never thought I would admit that because I find it embarrassing. It’s usually men who snore and I’ve heard tales of wives who have tried everything to get a good night’s sleep. I guess this ailment goes with my history of allergy problems and I should face it head on and determine how to change the situation before my husband moves out of our bedroom for good!

I’ve tried several things previously and good results. I find though, it has a great deal to do with how other things are going in my life. What have I recently eaten that may have caused increased congestion due to allergies? Am I having drainage down the back of my throat? How tired am I? How much alcohol have I consumed? I realize snoring is caused and impacted by many other things in my life. If I work on changing these things, my snoring decreases and I don’t have to sleep alone.

These are the typical remedies for snoring:

1. Change your sleep position: If you tend to sleep on your back, you may have an issue with the base of your tongue and soft palate collapsing to the back of your throat. This will cause a vibrating sound during sleep. If you change positions and sleep on your side, you may prevent this. I very often start out on my side, but turn on my back during sleep without realizing it. Okay, here’s what’s recommended to keep you lying on your side: A full-length body pillow for support will keep you on your side. Or, taping tennis balls to the back of your pajamas. I think I’ll call Victoria’s Secret and see if they have lingerie with tennis ball packets in the back. My hubby would think that was cool.

2. Lose weight: If a person gains weight in the neck area, it can squeeze the internal diameter of the throat causing it to collapse during sleep, which may increase snoring. Who do we call for neck exercises?

3. Avoid alcohol: Alcohol and sleeping aides reduce the resting tone of the muscles in the back of your throat, making it more likely you will snore. Drinking alcohol four to five hours before retiring for the night will make snoring worse. So the question is a toss-up between hubby in bed and my red wine with dinner. I’ll have to mull that one over…

4. Open nasal passages: If you snore due to congestion and closed nasal passages, this may be helpful. Using steam from a hot shower before going to bed may help unclog your nasal passages, using a neti pot to rinse your nasal passages, or applying nasal strips at bedtime may all help you sleep without disturbing your partner.

5. Change your pillow: Allergens in your bedroom and in your pillow may be a contributing factor to snoring. When did you last replace your pillow or dust your overhead ceiling fan? (What? You have to dust those things?) Anything that increases an allergic reaction may increase your snoring. So check on pet dander, your pillow, bed linens, etc.

6. Stay well hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids will liquify nasal secretions and help move them through instead of becoming sticky and causing congestion, which can lead to snoring.

7. Use nasosympatico: This is a blend of natural oils that open up nasal passages and help you breathe easier while sleeping. It’s very similar to using Vick’s vapor rub or some type of menthol product to keep airways open and functioning properly.

I have tried many of these and had some relief, but have back slidden and gotten lazy. I think I just need that occasional reminder to be aware of my overall health and how getting lazy will impact many parts of my life, one of those being my sleep (and another person’s sleep). Today I will drink more water, decrease my alcohol intake in the evening, and dust my ceiling fan.

Mikey – will you come back to bed now???

Strive to be healthy!

Information shared courtesy of WebMD.

LARYNGITIS by Vickie Kline

Years ago, every time I caught a cold, I would get laryngitis. Eventually I would feel fine, but my voice would be MIA for two to three weeks. It was very frustrating because I was a vocalist at the time. As my voice recovered a bit, I would sing more, and would lose my voice all over again. One of those vicious cycles that is hard to break. Luckily, with changes in diet, medication, and a more healthful lifestyle, I no longer experience these long periods of being voiceless. (I’m sure my husband wishes we could go back in time…)

Laryngitis occurs when you have an infection or stressed vocal chords. The vocal chords swell, causing them to not vibrate properly to create sound. There are numerous causes for laryngitis:

1. Overuse of the voice may cause irritation resulting in laryngitis, such as yelling at a sporting event.

2. Prolonged use of alcohol or tobacco may cause laryngitis.

3. Acid reflux disease. If you suspect this, consult your physician.

If you find you often lose your voice, there are some natural ways to help relieve symptoms and bring your voice back more quickly:

1. Rest your voice. Try not to talk much. This will speed up the healing process.

2. Drink plenty of fluids. The more hydrated you are, the better your chance of healing your vocal chords.

3. Use steam. The bathroom is the best place to do this. Close the door, turn the hot water on in the shower and …. breathe … for about 20 minutes. This will help to moisturize the vocal chords.

4. Discontinue all alcohol and tobacco if necessary. Alcohol and tobacco will dehydrate you and dry out the vocal chords.

5. If you feel physical irritation in your vocal chords, use a gargle of warm water. Again, this will help to hydrate them.

6. A cold water vaporizer may also be helpful. This will increase the humidity.

7. Ibuprofen will also help decrease the inflammation and speed up the healing process.

Once you begin to experience symptoms or feel like you may be losing your voice, start the healing process right away. If you catch laryngitis early (possibly when you first become hoarse), you can keep it from getting much worse. If you try these home remedies and are not getting better, always consult your physician.

Strive to be healthy!

Information courtesy of Medicine Net

No Voice image courtesy of Miss Thrifty SLP

TOO MUCH MSG? by Vickie Kline

A couple of years ago I struggled with sore muscles in my neck and shoulder area. I visited the chiropractor often, thinking it was a tightening of muscles that was stress-related. I would get relief for a day or so… and then would feel discomfort all over again. I began visiting a kinesiologist to get his opinion. He told me my back and hips were in perfect alignment, so the soreness and stiffness was not caused by anything muscular or bone-related, and a chiropractic adjustment would not help. Hmmm, how strange.

The doctor then asked if I had changed my diet in any way or what I had been eating. At the time I was working to lose weight, so had begun eating Healthy Choice soups for lunch everyday. I learned that soups have a high MSG content and too much MSG presents itself in muscle soreness – especially in the neck and shoulders. By trying to be more healthy and eating soup, I caused another issue in my body. Very interesting.

MSG stands for monosodium glutamate and is a form of concentrated salt added to foods to enhance flavor. The body can produce glutamic acid (the same version of this salt) on its own, but food producers think it’s necessary to process this ingredient and place it in food on the grocery store shelves. MSG is connected with many adverse reactions, such as, skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression, and in some severe cases, seizures.

Since MSG has been connected to these health issues, the food industry has given it new names and new forms to help disguise its existence in processed foods. MSG can also be called autolyzed yeast extract, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate, mono-potassium glutamate, and textured protein. How can this be right?

The food industry thinks that because MSG is so cheap, they should be allowed to use lesser quality foods, but enhance the flavor by adding MSG. Again I ask, how can this be right?

Foods containing the largest doses of MSG are spicy corn chips, many soups, certain Chinese foods, ranch dressing, sausages, hot dogs, barbecued meats, smokes meats, processed deli meats, and many sauces. Also included are powdered packets like chili, gravy, taco seasoning, French onion dip, and dried dip mixes.

Even though you don’t feel the effects of MSG, they are there. MSG causes a spike in glutamic acid, which is used throughout the body as a neurotransmitter. MSG also compromises the way the liver and gall bladder use bile to break up fats for digestion. An overdose of MSG may cause a person to experience diarrhea, gall bladder attacks, or a flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome.

It really pays to know what you’re putting into your body. Check the labels of purchased products and become familiar with ingredients. Do your entire system a favor and cut back on processed foods, especially those containing MSG. You’ll be amazed at the immediate difference you feel. Today I don’t eat much soup, watch my intake of MSG, and never suffer from neck and shoulder discomfort.

Strive to be healthy!

Information courtesy of Health Basics: What is MSG?

MSG image courtesy of A Real Food Lover

RECIPE FRIDAY: Gluten-free Quinoa Pizza Bites

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 large eggs
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tablespoons dried)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pizza sauce for dipping

Directions

  1. Place the quinoa and two cups of water in a covered pot. Bring to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix together all ingredients, except pizza sauce, in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Distribute mixture into a greased mini muffin tin, filling each cup to the top (one heaping tablespoon each), and press down gently to compact.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm with sauce for dipping.

Makes 24 mini muffin bites.

Strive to be healthy!

Recipe and photos courtesy of fitsugar