Monday, February 23, 2009

Jewish Penicillin

Ahh, life here in South Western Virginia. Here we are in February and the weather outside is truly frightful: one day it is in the 60's and less than a week later we're back to in the 30's, along with insane wind and flurries. It really isn't a huge mystery why we're all getting sick, is it?
Justin and I were feeling pretty beat-up last night, and I still had dinner looming ahead of me. At times, cooking is less of a pleasure and more of a chore, but when you're not feeling too good it can appear downright like torture!! But, aha, it would be food to the rescue, via some homemade chicken noodle soup.
Ok, first, some confessions. One, it wasn't chicken noodle soup. It was turkey noodle soup! When we buy turkeys from the farm (pasture raised as they ought to be), we always get at least two. I, of course, make stock with the cooked carcasses, and store that away for future uses. That second turkey though we tend to have a lot of left-overs with that get safely stored away in the freezer. Second Confession: I've NEVER made homemade chicken (or turkey) noodle soup before!! YIKES!! I was raised on Campbell's and until now that had always been good enough. Third Confession: if there had been Campbell's in the cupboard, I probably would've made it last night. I am SO glad we didn't have any!!
Here is the basic recipe:

Chicken or Turkey Noodle Soup:
I chose a regular sized stock-pan, one I would use for making chili in. Into this went frozen and canned (I canned this year!) homemade turkey stock. Don't use water!! I did this, not wanting the flavor to be too strong and I ended up adding some bouillon to it because it tasted to watery ~ bleh! But, if yours comes out watery, know to just add some bouillon to fix it. Pretty much fill up the pot with stock.
Into this I added (all organic stuff): 3 chopped up carrots, 2 diced up onions, 3 cloves of garlic (minced), and some nice amounts (tablespoon or so) of dill, tarragon, and parsley, along with salt & pepper to taste. Bring it all to a boil, reduce heat to a rolling simmer, and let cook about 20 minutes or so ~ I knew it was good to go when the carrots were soft.
We took already-cooked turkey out of the freezer, and heated it up. We then chopped up a good amount of it (small chopping board full .. let's say somewhere between 4 & 6 cups worth), and tossed it into the pot.
Finally, after we knew the veggies were cooked to where we were happy with them, we added a bag of Egg Noodles, brought it all back to a boil, reduced the heat again, and let it cook for a good 10 minutes or so. You'll know it is ready when the aroma is so intoxicating that you're ready to dunk your head in the pot!!
I have to tell you, Campbell's has NOTHING on this homemade soup! I can't wait to try this again and actually make the noodles myself. Making the soup was really nice and easy too. Just taking already put-by food out and tossing it into the pot, cutting up some veggies and tossing them in, and then resting until it was done. This is the type of cooking that, when you're sick, is DEFINITELY NOT a chore or torture!!!! We had a lot more than we could eat ~ some leftovers went into the fridge for today's lunch, the rest went into the freezer for future meals. Some we shared with relatives who are also battling the cold. If you're not already an old hand at canning, I would recommend freezing the soup.
There is a reason chicken noodle soup is affectionately known as "the Jewish penicillin." When made with pasture-raised poultry (this is KEY and I can't stress the importance of that enough!!), the fat in the skin of the chicken is chock-full of CLA. Conjugated Linoleic Acid. This is some serious sick-germ-butt-kickin' stuff!!! This is NOT a time to be scared of some fat in the soup ~ you're sick and you want it!! For more info on CLA, scroll down to the post on making stock .. or also read "Real Food; what to eat and why" by Nina Planck.
If you haven't made this before, try it. You won't regret it and you won't give a second look at canned soup in the grocery aisle. When you get a little more of an appetite, pair it with some fresh-baked, homemade bread to help fill you up some more.
~And, just for the record: yes, we have a cold, no we haven't taken any OTC, chemically-filled, medicine. We did take some homeopathic cold-care medicine from Hyland's (check out my main blog to learn more there), but we only had 3 pills left, and we'll have to order more online. So, really, no meds at all. I've been sucking on some "herbal supplement" lozenges from Hall's (yes, yes, I know - but they were in the medicine closet & I am frugal!!), trying to get this dry hack down, but they don't seem to be helping. Other than that, lots of fluids (especially some raw milk!!! Vitamin C galore there!!), warm teas, and even some hot cocoa with whiskey in it!!
A close relative has the same cold, and loaded up on the meds. She seemed to really struggle with it, but after a long weekend, seems to be back on her feet. I think it is the meds that were making her struggle so hard with the cold, meds always seem to make you feel more awful while they're supposedly making you feel better.
Colds need time. Give your body time. Rest, get fluids, make up a big batch of homemade chicken (or turkey) noodle soup. Eat, drink, rest, repeat. Feel better soon and know that you haven't added anything other than goodness (and maybe some whiskey ... we can argue the merits of that another time) to your body.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Are You Eating Well?

This is a question I would usually answer with a very emphatic YES! However, I've recently discovered I haven't been eating as well as I thought. How in the hell is that even possible I keep wondering?? I'm a pretty observant person and I'm particularly observant when it comes to my own body, so the revelation of not knowing what I had been eating was a big one for me. Let's go back a minute though.
I'm a pretty amazonian type of mama. I'm nearly 6' tall, my bones are huge, and I look like I can kick your butt. (Just for the record, I like to think I can too!! That's what is fun about us Mama Bears) So, I've never been someone who would EVER be considered petite or delicate. Then I got pregnant with my first son. As so happens to many first-time moms I gained a LOT of weight! Wow, being pregnant in fall ~ how could you not?? Mashed potatoes, god I love those, rolls, turkey, sweet potatoes, fried chicken, and then all the sweets that go along with that time of year. Yummy! There is a reason we gain weight! Then, I found out the harsh reality like new moms: just because the baby needs all that extra food and nutrition doesn't mean the little bugger will take it with him when he leaves you!! Apparently, so I've been told by much wiser moms, this will be a theme for later in life when they go to college and get a place of their own. I lost most of the weight I had gained and when I got pregnant with our second son I only gained 18 pounds which came off quickly.
Now we're up to Justin having a full-time job and me staying home with the boys. I have time, usually, to cook, and time to shop for good ingredients. We also have our home and our gardens, along with the Farmer's Market in walking distance. Life is good, but still our budget is short and tight. This is something I've managed quite well, I must admit, but I was very saddened when it wasn't really helping my waist-line. Which brings us back to the beginning of: but I eat healthy!!
Yes, I eat do eat healthy. I have a good knowledge of what foods are good and truly healthy for you, and try to eat as organically as possible. And, I don't eat very much. So I talked with my acupuncturist and he recommended that I keep a daily food journal. He told me how some foods, EVEN IF they're healthy foods in and of themselves can be inappropriate foods for an individual. He ALSO told me how a food "reaction" can take up to 72 hours to show up ~ as someone who has to deal with migraines, any connection between food and reactions in an important one!!
I began on New Year's Eve ~ might as well start when we're still in full celebrating mode and be honest about it! Here is what I found out: I don't eat appropriately! I don't eat breakfast and I often don't each lunch, unless I have a bowl of leftovers or a handful of cheese-crackers (our packaged food indulgence ~ the kids do love them as snacks!). I eat dinner which is often a casserole or one dish that is easy to prepare when the kids are around. I drink tea, both iced and warm, during the day ~ the iced is unsweetened.
It is really amazing when you begin to take the time to honestly document the food you eat. You can begin to see patterns form. You can realize the food groups you might be missing altogether. You can also find out about portions. Having grown up in the hey-day of "Super Size It!" I can admit that the notion of eating only a 1/2 cup of something is almost impossible for me to accept ~ probably as impossible as it would be for our grandparents and great-grandparents to imagine trying to eat a "large" or "Super Sized" fry!!
So now I have a new mission: to make sure that I get to eat some of these yummy and healthy foods I buy for my kids. To be able to say "this is Mommy's to eat, you eat yours" when my kids try to eat something I'm eating ~ this has always been the reason I don't fix myself food early in the day, we don't eat the same thing! To make sure I actually DO eat during the day, not just grab a quick handful of cheese crackers in between making bread, doing laundry, and the variety of other chores that make up my day.
If you're wondering about your waistline, or just your over-all health ~ go buy a little notebook and begin writing down what you eat. Don't judge yourself and don't lie! This was a little hard as I was finishing up my Christmas candy of Andes Mints and I hated having to acknowledge each time I snuck a couple. I don't feel guilty about them. Treating yourself is good from time to time. So be honest. When I say don't judge yourself I mean don't turn to self-hate, -shame and -blame, which is so easy for women to do. Acknowledge what your eating patterns are. Acknowledge that sometimes you just really need __X__ as a treat. Then, once a good month has gone past, you will start to see patterns, the more time goes by the more you'll really see it. You'll be able to see what is ok and what isn't. Remember, just because something is healthy doesn't mean it is appropriate for YOU. If you still want some help figuring out which way to go, take your journal to your doctor, your acupuncturist (Dancing Crane in Salem is my place and I love them!!! I highly recommend checking them out if you're ever wanting some acupuncture in Salem, VA!!!), or a nutritionist. They can see patterns and will know more about how foods can interact with bodies.
Whatever you do though: try and keep a positive attitude and try to focus on being healthy and eating appropriately for you. This will make all the difference