Monday, December 22, 2014

Can Milk Thistle Help?

 I've noticed for a few years now, at least, that my summer tan never really goes away. I always seem to have a kind of yellowy leftover look. What concerned me a bit--but my doctor has never even mentioned--is that even areas, like my belly, that don't get exposed to the sun have the faded tan look.

Last week or so, I decided to do a bit of research. The "carotene skin" idea didn't seem to fit as it wasn't yellow on the side of orange at all. From what I could gather, if there is truly anything off, it was my bilirubin levels due to liver congestion or some other liver issue. It is unlikely that I have any other liver issue, so the alternative health side of things was saying liver congestion. And, naturally, recommending a liver detox.

This is a bad time of year to be taking on a detox, I just know I won't be willing to commit to it with all the goodies I want to indulge in, so I kept reading to see if there was something small I could do to take a step in the direction of liver detoxing. The answer was milk thistle.

Our vet had recommended we give our dog milk thistle while she was on prednisone for months earlier this year, just as something to help clear the medication out of her liver and hopefully prevent damage, so I wasn't new to it. I read up on potential side effects and all that and decided to give it a go. It has only been about a week of inconsistent use, but I could definitely see an improvement in my skin colouring today! This is highly motivating in terms of doing something after the holidays to gently detox--or just really get myself into a truly healthy diet.

Of course, I probably should have actually contacted a naturopath before starting to take milk thistle on my own (as should you!), but so far, so good.

While there is already a disclaimer on this site, I feel the need to say it again: Nothing in this post constitutes medical advice or a recommendation that you take milk thistle. It is my experience so far with this herb; take what you will of it!

Friday, December 19, 2014

-Free Recipe Friday: Dairy-Free Christmas Shortbread Cookies

Today's recipe is just like the Rice Krispie squares recipe, which makes me feel a little like I'm cheating with these recipes, but really, I want you to know just how easy it is to make at least some things dairy-free.

Why am I saying it's cheating? Because I'm just going to give you a normal shortbread cookie recipe (well, one designed for a cookie shooter) and substitute dairy-free margarine in it.

Yes, it really is that easy. I have family still making two separate batches of desserts and things like pancakes when we get together when it is just so unnecessary most of the time. They'll make a batch of pancakes with soy milk or rice milk for me but regular for everybody else, for example. Their lives would be much simpler if they just made one batch for everybody.

In any case, I have a cookie shooter that is ancient and still works---omg, I just looked it up and found it on Amazon


--and my daughter specifically asked for shortbread Christmas cookies made with the cookie shooter. Growing up, we always bought the packaged mixed and then just added a little milk to the dough to make it soft enough to go through the shooter. This time, I sought out a recipe specifically for it and found this one from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cookie-press-shortbread/ . They're already almost gone, so it's clearly a winner!

Dairy-Free Shortbread Cookie Press/Shooter Cookies

(Um, yes, some were eaten before the picture was taken. They had to be taste-tested. :D )

*1 cup of butter substitute (I used Becel vegan; try different things to see how they work with the recipe)
*1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
*1/2 icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
*1/4 tsp vanilla extract
*1/2 cup cornstarch

My additions to the recipe:
*food colouring
*peppermint and/or almond flavouring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until smooth with electric mixer. Stir in flour and cornstarch. (**) Pop dough into your cookie press, and away you go! Press cookies out onto ungreased cookie sheets. (Add sprinkles, if you wish.)
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the peaks are golden.

**If you are wanting coloured or flavoured cookies, separate the dough into batches to then remix with your choice of colouring and/or flavouring.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dairy-Free Christmas Baking: Rice Krispie Squares

Finally, here it is, the first of my Christmas dairy-free recipes! These recipes are ones for the whole family even if it's just one person who is dairy-free (as is the case in my house). No need to make a batch with the dairy and a batch without, just make them dairy-free and they will get gobbled up.

I love Rice Krispie Squares. So do my husband and kids. And the great thing is if you are choosing or have to eat dairy-free, they are sooooo easy to make dairy-free.

You can just use the recipe on the box and use a butter substitute--like vegan margarine or Earth Balance--but I find the recipe on the box isn't chewy enough. And they make vanilla optional. The vanilla shouldn't be optional. Trust me.

This recipe can also easily be made vegan and gluten-free.

DAIRY-FREE CHEWY RICE KRISPIE SQUARES



1/4 cup dairy-free margarine or "butter" spread; I used Becel Vegan
250 g (or about 40 regular marshmallows; don't be afraid to put more than 40 in; equivalent to 5 cups of mini marshmallows)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups Rice Krispies cereal (if you want it even chewier/gooier, go for 4-4.5 cups)

*Melt the margarine in a large pot (saucepan). Use low heat. When the margarine is completely melted, add in the marshmallows and stir with a mixing spoon until smooth. Remove from heat.
*Add the vanilla and stir.
*Add the cereal and stir. Make sure to get down into the "corners" of the pot and really mix things until the cereal is coated. If you are going for 4-4.5 cups, it'll be a little harder to mix things so the cereal is coated evenly, but they'll still taste good if you can't.
*Use your dairy-free margarine to butter a 9x13 pan (consider using and 8x8 if you went for the 4 cups; you'll have thicker squares, but with the 9x13, they are very thin). Pour/scrape the Rice Krispie mix into the pan. Use a buttered (buttered with your dairy-free margarine, of course) spatula to push the mixture into place and smooth it out.
*Cut into your desired size of squares.

**Vegan alternative: Make sure your margarine is vegan and use vegan marshmallows.
**Gluten-free alternative: Use gluten-free Rice Krispies or other brand of gluten-free rice crisp cereal.


That's it! Stay tuned for the shortbread cookies. :)
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For a little fun: How many of you remember this commercial?




Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Bought a Young Coconut--And Don't Know What to Do With It

We bought a regular coconut a few weeks back, it sat on the counter for more than a week, which meant that when I finally opened it up, it was already starting to rot.

I decided to try my first ever young coconut. I was, as it turned out, not very educated on the matter. I was surprised by the texture, the amount of water... But now it's been a few days and I still don't now what to do with it and I don't want it to go to waste!

What's your favourite simple recipe (I have some Medjool dates in the house, only some raw cashews for nuts, no Stevia, no bananas, (and no guarantee that there will be a single ripe banana at the store); not sure what else I have for a recipe) with young coconut? Peferably NOT a yoghurt or a smoothie; I've found a lot of recipes for those and it's not what I'm wanting to make. I guess I'm looking for a sort of treat?